Today’s learners, tomorrow’s leaders: InTrans partners with Iowa DOT to offer educational workshops for Iowa teachers/students

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June 25, 2015
Teachers testing transportation-related activities
Teachers testing transportation-related activities during Transportation Institute
A student tests out the MiniCym at the Institute for Transportation in Ames
A student tests out the MiniCym at the Institute for Transportation in Ames, Iowa

Both Iowa State University’s (ISU’s) Institute for Transportation (InTrans) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) know that the leaders of tomorrow are the learners of today.

Their unique partnership, beginning in late 2014, focuses on education, which is a key element of the activities conducted by InTrans for the Midwest Transportation Center (MTC) and the efforts of the Iowa DOT.

During the summer of 2015, three educational workshops are being offered with the goal of educating students on engineering concepts and transportation-related professions while providing teachers the tools to stimulate team-building, critical thinking, and interest in the transportation field.

Transportation Institute

In June 2015, the Transportation Institute, a one week professional development workshop, funded by the Iowa DOT, was held at InTrans. A total of 12 high school and middle school teachers (who reach nearly 1,200 students) attended the workshop, participating in the creation of transportation-related activities (i.e., yellow light timing, road surface and runaway truck ramps) to bring into their classrooms and after school programs.

Throughout the week, they listened to speakers like Sandra Larson and Kurtis Younkin from the Iowa DOT, who provided them with the background knowledge they will need to use the newly developed activities in their classrooms. A $500 mini grant, to purchase items for these activities, was also awarded to each teacher who attended the workshop. 

Go! Further Workshop

Then, later in June, 19 students from classrooms across Iowa, such as Des Moines Public Schools, attended the Go! Further Workshop, which was funded by both the MTC and Iowa DOT. This five day educational workshop focused on leadership training and team-building.

Working in teams throughout the whole process, students participated in a ropes course in Marshalltown, Iowa, where they traversed through a challenging rope climbing obstacle course. At InTrans, students were able to “test drive” their MiniCym—a driving simulator that allowed them as the “drivers” to respond to various obstacles and hazards. Then students were able to see what a snow plow operator really does by “driving” in a snow plow simulator housed at the Iowa DOT.

Knowing that providing mentors and input from successful professionals is key in furthering student interest in transportation-related fields, the Iowa DOT and InTrans provided speakers who shared their stories and real-world examples of the work they do in the field. Students were introduced to transportation professionals like Director of the Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE), Neal Hawkins, who is an expert in traffic engineering and transportation planning at InTrans.

Teaching in the Fast Lane

In July 2015, 26 elementary teachers from across Iowa will attend Teaching in the Fast Lane, a workshop where teachers will participate in activities based on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Roadways in Developing Elementary Students (RIDES) kit.

The AASHTO RIDES kit is aligned with national Math and Science Standards at the Core Curriculum Standards and take students on multiple adventures learning about transportation in relation to both math and science concepts. After the workshop, teachers will be provided with a mini kit that will provide them with these materials, which will enable them to implement transportation and engineering lessons easily into their classrooms.

To provide participants with the background knowledge they will need to share these activities with their students, teachers will visit actual bridge testing sites and hear from visiting Iowa DOT and InTrans speakers.  

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