Students and researchers with TTI’s Safety through Disruption (Safe-D) University Transportation Center (UTC) took part in the largest science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) event in the nation April 7–8. The USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo in Washington, D.C., was attended by about 350,000 students, science and technology educators, researchers and parents.
Thousands of booths and stage shows featured hands-on activities related to all things science and technology, designed to promote STEM careers and address the severe shortage of science and engineering talent.
“It was a fast-paced, invigorating event,” Safe-D Administrator Martha Raney Taylor says. “In the Safe-D booth alone, we interacted with several thousand students who took part in the activities. You could tell they were engaged, intrigued and energized.”
The Safe-D booth featured research, staff and students from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, two of the partners in the Safe-D UTC consortium.
Two TTI-developed activities were featured:
- A retroreflectivity demonstration developed by Research Engineer Melisa Finley, in which students learned how road signs are able to be seen at night; and
- A driving simulator in which students “drove” a course simulating an automated vehicle that suddenly needed driver assistance.
Three Safe-D students from Texas A&M University engineering departments — Lea Huntington, Ben Ledesma and Patricio Rodriguez Paras — helped develop the simulator, and Huntington and Ledesma helped man the booth.
The simulator demonstration was part of a Safe-D project led by Thomas Ferris, TTI associate research scientist and associate professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering.
“The SAFE-D project is designed to develop countermeasures for problems that might arise on a partially-automated vehicle,” Ferris explains. “It was great to see kids take part in the demonstration, giving them a hands-on experience of what real-world research looks like. The expo was a huge success.”