In the past 11 years, over 400 middle-school students from the Huntsville area have enjoyed summer outreach programs organized by Dr. Kate Leonard from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). By providing fun learning experiences in an academic setting, Dr. Leonard hopes to encourage students from under-represented groups to consider careers in transportation engineering. CTOPS Project #11301, The Transportation Engineering Advancement and Mentoring (TEAM) Program, continued this tradition by bringing faculty members from UAH and professionals from the Society of Women Engineers together with teenagers to develop students who can examine and evaluate evidence and find answers to questions.
This year’s TEAM Program began in February during Engineers’ Week. Mentors (students and professionals) visited classes, gave presentations about transportation engineering, and introduced a design/build competition. Student teams took the next couple of months to design Popsicle-stick bridges and solar cars. On April 8, they brought their creations to UAH for tournament. Tanner High School students won both competitions and their teacher, Mrs. Lydia Lagrone, was honored for her mentorship role.
Students from participating schools attended a week-long program held on the UAH campus in June, where they learned about the role of transportation planning, management, safety, and design in modern society, with a focus on alternative-energy technologies. They also got to apply what they learned in the classroom: they built geodesic domes, which make strong structures with few materials; robotic cars to track speed and acceleration; and water rockets to demonstrate principles of rocket design.
The evidence suggests that the TEAM Program has had a positive impact. The first TEAM graduates have enrolled in engineering programs, including at UAH, and just under 90% of respondents to a recent survey of alumni from the 2003-2005 programs said they plan to attend college, with a majority in engineering.