About 40 sixth graders from College Station’s Oakwood Intermediate School were introduced to the world of transportation engineering at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) May 8, as part of the College Station Independent School District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. AVID prepares children (who may not be thinking about higher education) for college, and introduces them to professions they probably know little about.
“I want to show the students that engineering can be fun and can apply to everyday life,” says Research Engineer Melisa Finley, who’s been organizing AVID field trips to TTI since 2010. “Hopefully the students will become interested in engineering as a profession. You can’t develop a passion for something unless you know something about it.”
AVID is a national program available to school districts who want to “improve college readiness for all students, especially those traditionally underrepresented in higher education.”
“I have many hopes for these kids,” AVID Teacher Mary Bates says. “I try to instill positive habits, and I want to help them increase their confidence in themselves. My hope is that we’ve exposed them to the world of opportunity out there, so they have the chance to achieve their dreams.”
Open to all students, AVID recruits kids who are “in the middle” academically and have shown an ability to succeed. The students choose AVID as their elective and learn that college is possible with the help of financial aid. They attend tutorials twice weekly, and hear from college students who speak to them about their experiences. They also attend field trips, like the one at TTI.
Six TTI transportation engineers presented the students with information about various parts of their programs, including crash testing, distracted driving, traffic control devices, bicycle safety and the environmental aspects of transportation.
“The presenters at TTI have been inspirational. I’ve had students in the AVID program who thought they wanted to become a professional athlete tell me they want to become an engineer instead — after the visit to TTI,” Bates says.