The Western Transportation Institute's education program seeks to increase the number, quality, and diversity of undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees with a transportation emphasis. To meet this goal, WTI participates in a number of K-12 outreach activities designed to excite diverse groups of pre-college-age youth about engineering.
Summer Transportation Institute
The Summer Transportation Institute (STI) is an opportunity for high school students to learn about transportation and transportation careers. STI participants live on the Montana State University campus for four weeks during this unique summer program. This is an excellent opportunity for high school students to experience and prepare for college life.
During the STI, students have the opportunity to explore all areas of transportation from driving simulators to airplane design. They learn all about different transportation fields, including air, land, water, and safety, through fun hands-on activities, field trips, group and individual projects, and professional guest speakers. The STI program includes college and career preparatory activities and a recreational component.
To be eligible, applicants must be rising 10th, 11th or 12th graders; they must have completed high school algebra and have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 on a four-point scale.
Program funding is provided by the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). All housing, meal, and program expenses are covered by the sponsor for students accepted into the program.
Interested students should visit the Summer Transportation Institute page for information and application materials.
Bridges and Dams Outreach
A continuing challenge in increasing the diversity of students pursuing degrees and careers in transportation engineering is the significant under-representation of women and minorities in all engineering fields. With funding from the Engineering Information Foundation, WTI has implemented an outreach program aimed at increased recruitment and retention of women and minorities in engineering.
The Bridges and Dams outreach program is a collaborative effort between WTI and the MSU Civil Engineering Department (CE). Utilizing the MSU student base, WTI and CE recruit and train female engineering students to conduct two-hour workshops for second and third graders. The workshops cover basic engineering concepts and incorporate a variety of hands-on activities designed to increase children’s interest in math, science, and engineering. Local girls clubs are invited to participate as well as Native American schools in more remote tribal regions across Montana.
For more information on this project, see the report links below:
Exciting Children About Engineering through Interactive Exploration of Bridges and Dams (Presented at the 2003 WEPAN National Conference, Chicago, Illinois);
Bridges and Dams: Exciting Young Girls about Engineering (Final project report submitted to the Engineering Information Foundation).
WTI regularly participates in Gear Up (Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). The program brings middle school students from low-income backgrounds to MSU for a day to develop their academic interests and aspirations. Gear Up visitors learned about highway safety issues and built and tested their own crash attenuators using a ramp, toy truck, and eggs.
Peaks and Potentials
Each summer, middle school youngsters spend a week at MSU exploring a variety of topics through the Peaks and Potentials program. Eighth and ninth graders discovered how engineers design and build structures like roads and bridges and explored design software and other tricks of the trade. The students then had the opportunity to get their hands dirty making their own concrete and bridges, and to test the strength of their creations by breaking them in the lab.
Expanding Your Horizons
Montana middle school girls learn about careers in math and science during Expanding Your Horizons (EYH), an annual event hosted on the MSU campus. Activities vary by year. In 2005, WTI conducted a workshop on soils for EYH participants. The girls learned why knowledge of soils is so important to anyone in the business of engineering and constructing various structures. Hands-on activities demonstrated some of the unexpected characteristics of soils.
National Engineering Week Activities
Two events are held each year for pre-college youth at MSU to celebrate National Engineers Week. Hundreds of area sixth graders visit the MSU campus for "Engineerathon." The middle school students learn about different engineering disciplines as they rotate between hands-on engineering booths developed and facilitated by MSU College of Engineering student chapter organizations. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) demonstrates the importance of crash attenuators using a ramp, a toy truck, and a crash-test egg. Other engineering activities include a demonstration of gear ratios in auto and bike design by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) student chapter; a demonstration of how tension and compression act together in loaded bridge beams by Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering student honor society; and an oil pipeline project facilitated by the American Indian Science and Engineering (AISES) student chapter. In all, over fifty MSU engineering students participate in the event from a variety of different student chapters.
MSU engineering students also host area Girl Scouts to commemorate "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day," as part of National Engineering Week. The Girl Scouts earn their "Making it Matter" engineering badge by exploring different engineering concepts with the MSU students. Badge Day is organized and sponsored by WTI in cooperation with the MSU College of Engineering.