For more than 20 years, researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) have educated future generations about transportation engineering. These programs range from K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities to the basics of how TTI researchers conduct their studies.
This summer, TTI welcomed students from the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum summer camps and the Texas A&M University College of Engineering Camp BUILD. Institute researchers engaged young minds from seven summer camps.
“An important part of TTI’s mission is the education of the next generation of transportation professionals,” says TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “I can’t think of a better way to expose young people to transportation careers than a visit to TTI to hear firsthand from Institute researchers how they got into the field and what kind of work they do.”
The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum offers summer camps each year to five groups of students aged 7 to 11. These week-long camps center on the topic of the museum’s current exhibit. This year’s exhibit “Driven to Drive” focused on the history of transportation and included a one-day field trip to TTI.
“We were so glad to partner with TTI this year,” says Monica Lerma, education specialist at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. “The researchers presented the kids many hands-on opportunities to learn. They really enjoyed all the activities — especially Bob the crash test dummy.”
Campers learned about transportation research through interactive presentations from TTI staff and received hands-on lessons about traffic signals, transportation and the environment, transportation safety, signs, and crash testing.
TTI Research Engineer Melisa Finley says, “I really enjoy watching students’ eyes light up when they learn something new, and they always provide a lot of creative thoughts about transportation. I hope that by exposing students to STEM activities and transportation safety, we have encouraged the next generation of engineers and transportation researchers.”
Finley has been a part of TTI’s educational outreach for nine years. Through camps like these, she’s reached over 2,300 students, including girls, minority groups and the economically disadvantaged.
Camp BUILD is a one-week summer camp designed for high-school juniors and seniors. Students are given the opportunity to explore civil engineering as a major course of study at Texas A&M University and tour department facilities and TTI. This year, students learned about transportation engineering, crash testing, and transportation safety and toured TTI’s Visibility Laboratory. Students also attended a breakout session with TTI videographers on the use of video in transferring transportation technology to practitioners.
Linda Chatham, associate research specialist, has coordinated the Camp BUILD TTI visits since 2013. “It is rewarding to be part of stimulating the minds of future engineers,” says Chatham. “Introducing them to TTI and the world of transportation at the high school level will help promote and excite them and perhaps they will one day join the TTI team.”
TTI has been a part of Camp BUILD since it began in 2013. The application process for the camp is similar to a college application — students must submit transcripts and essays.