Since its inception in 1999, the CTOPS has been committed to recruiting minority students to careers in transportation engineering. For the tenth consecutive year, CTOPS and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) cosponsored a summer program for rising high-school juniors and seniors from west-central Alabama. UTCA Project #11101, Advanced Transportation Institute 2011 (ATI-11), hosted 17 students for three days in July.
The Institute curriculum featured presentations by ALDOT professionals and university faculty. Activities and presentations were designed to prepare students for university life and transportation careers. Students learned about university-admission procedures and transportation-career opportunities. Other presentations focused on transportation planning, design, construction, maintenance, and safety.
The students also toured a quarry. The quarry operators showed how they get the rock out of the ground, move it where they need it, crush it, test it, and load it for shipment. They explained that the strength and size of the rock they provide depends on whether the client needs it for pavement, foundations, commercial manufacturing, and so on.
Every year, a highlight for the students is a series of design competitions. This year ALDOT’s lead surveyor arranged a contest where students started at a known elevation, surveyed across a field and back, and determined the elevation of a given point. They learned how to set up and use the surveying instrument, how to take surveying readings through the instrument, and how to calculate the elevation.
ATI has had success in encouraging students from underrepresented groups to pursue transportation careers. Every year surveys have shown that the participants are more likely to consider a career in transportation after ATI than before, and several ATI participants have received engineering degrees from UA.