Participants in the STI following a crash at the Riverside Campus
TTI’s Dusty Arrington shows STI participants how a crash test
will be performed
Twenty high school students who have shown interest in science and engineering spent an entire day at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), June 25, as part of the Prairie View A&M Summer Transportation Institute (STI), which is in its 15th year.
The 11th and 12th grade students were among 45 applicants who were selected for the two-week long program that introduces them to a wide range of transportation topics. Each year, TTI guides the students on a tour of the Institute, conducting presentations and demonstrating various facilities including the Environmental and Emissions Chamber, the Hydraulics, Sedimentation and Erosion Laboratory, the Driving Simulator and the Visibility Research Laboratory. The students also witnessed a crash test, conducted at the Riverside Campus.
“In addition to the TTI visit, the students toured the Port of Houston, the TranStar traffic management center and various TxDOT facilities,” says STI Co-Director Ramalingam Radhakrishnan. “The kids were selected to participate in the Summer Transportation Institute based on various criteria which includes GPA, career interest in STEM disciplines and school counselor recommendations. We have four students this year who are from other states.”
Radhakrishnan says the program also includes a visit to NASA and a highway construction company as well as classroom lectures that introduce the students to highway planning, the railway industry, water transportation and traffic control.
The program is free to the students, funded and supported by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) through Texas Department of Transportation and Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Prairie View A&M University.
“It’s a unique experience and gives the students a lot of exposure to the various transportation systems, and hopefully it encourages them to further their studies,” TxDOT Project Specialist Daniel Williams says.
Over the years, former STI participants have gone on to graduate with engineering degrees.
“I’m not sure exactly what I want to do for a living, but I was interested in learning more about transportation because I don’t want to leave any doors shut,” says Maegann Stafford, a high school student from Georgia. “I have met a lot of people who are passionate about what they do. You can tell that the things they do have improved people’s lives and I want to someday be able to help in similar ways.”
The ATLAS Center at TTI provides support for existing STI programs. These include one program established more than a decade ago to help minority, female, first generation to college, and other underrepresented high school students entering 11th and 12th grade develop an interest in attending college, choosing STEM majors and ultimately choosing transportation careers. The program serves approximately 30 students each year. The STI Scholars program – developed with UTCM funding – provides a second-year experience for invited students to receive more in-depth programming and career counseling. The ATLAS Center at TTI hosts STI students by offering tours of TTI and TAMU facilities, interactive discussions, and hands-on activities with researchers and graduate students. The ATLAS Center also provides support for further developing the recruiting network and follow-up with graduates of the program.
Coordinator of STI Program at Prairie View A&M University
Director, Center for Energy & Environmental Sustainability, Prairie View A&M University