The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials recently highlighted its Transportation and Civil Engineering or TRAC program for middle and high school students in a new video as a way to attract more young people into the state department of transportation community.
[Above photo by AASHTO]
“Currently we have about 17 states actively in the program but I see no reason why all 50 states should be participating,” explained Jonathan Sirianni, program manager for engineering at AASHTO, in the video.
“With the workforce issues we are facing, with the need to get good people into important engineering-based jobs in this industry, this program should sell itself,” he added. “What is at stake here is the future of infrastructure.”
TRAC and its sister program RIDES – short for “Roadways In Developing Elementary Students” – are AASHTO educational outreach programs designed for use in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or STEM classes. The hands-on activities in both programs introduce students in grades K-12 to the “work world” of transportation and civil engineering; hopefully inspiring them to consider careers in those fields.
State DOTs work with schools in their state by providing the curricula and resources for the schools and providing engineers to visit the classrooms to serve as speakers, teach a hands-on activity, and/or talk to students about the importance of math and science in preparing for their future.
For the TRAC program, that work culminates in the annual National Bridge Competition. Typically held in-person at AASHTO’s Spring Meeting, the National Bridge Competition is a one-day event representing nearly eight months of work by the various student teams involved.
The competing student teams construct model bridges made from kits provided by the TRAC program that include glue and balsa wood. They then use infrastructure software to design their bridges, build prototypes, and use destructive testing to gauge the upper limits of the strength-to-weight ratio of their designs.
For more information of the TRAC & RIDES program, click here.