STEM learning

Transportation: A natural vehicle for integrated STEM learning

July 20, 2016

This webinar presentation was sponsored by TRB ABG20 Committee on Education and Training with the National Network for the Transportation Workforce and hosted by the Northeast Transportation Workforce Center. A recording can be found below:




This webinar explored STEM learning in programs using a transportation lens through informal educational settings.  It was built off of the findings from the 2015 National Research Council’s report on productive STEM programs in out-of-school settings, and explored ways in which the Transportation field can offer:

  • a productive area for advancing STEM learning goals given the broad reach of the modes and the disciplines involved;
  • a continuum of STEM job opportunities and career paths that start at multiple levels of credentialing (High School, advanced certificates, Associates degree, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral level);
  • a familiar field of inquiry for students of all backgrounds to engage in as they all experience the field in daily life, from walking and biking to transit and highways.

Preparing for the Webinar:

We have gathered several resources to make participation of higher value for you.

Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings (NAP 2015).  More and more young people are learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in a wide variety of afterschool, summer, and informal programs. At the same time, there has been increasing awareness of the value of such programs in sparking, sustaining, and extending interest in and understanding of STEM. To help policy makers, funders and education leaders in both school and out-of-school settings make informed decisions about how to best leverage the educational and learning resources in their community, this report identifies features of productive STEM programs in out-of-school settings.

Review and Business Case Analysis of Transportation-STEM Programs with State DOT Involvement. (TRB 2016)   This paper reviews state DOT involvement in transportation-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach programs and identifies opportunities to engage kindergarten through high school (K-12) students in STEM programs and enhance their interest in the transportation field. Results showed that over 40% of state DOTs are involved in K-15 STEM outreach programs: most commonly residential or non-residential summer programs; teacher training and curriculum development programs; internship and shadowing opportunities; one-day awareness events; and periodic employee visits to schools to present on transportation STEM. A business case analysis, together with STEM theory and existing empirical evidence, showed that agencies will benefit from including both longer-term and shorter-term alternatives in their STEM programming to cultivate STEM efficacy and build long-term relationships with a smaller percentage of students while increasing STEM awareness broadly among K-12 students. Such strategic programming will contribute to the development of a pool of students for future recruitment to replenish the transportation workforce.

STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research (2014)

National Academies of Sciences publication, winner of ITEAA’s Council on Technology and Engineering Teacher Education 2015 Outstanding Research Award

VIDEO: STEM Integration in K-12 Education

What is STEM? It’s the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But while kindergarten through 12th grade education usually focuses on science or mathematics in isolation, all four of these disciplines are closely intertwined in the real world. Imagine if K-12 students were taught in ways that highlighted these connections, making their education more relevant to their lives and opening doors to new and exciting careers


Facilitator: Martin Storksdieck is the director of Oregon State University’s Center for Research on Lifelong  STEM Learning and initiated the NAS report on out-of-school STEM education when he previously worked at the National Academies. He will provide context on the research on informal STEM education in terms of growth, benefits, issues with evaluation, and professional development for STEM professionals wishing to communicate their passion to youth and the community. He also is interested in exploring ideas in expanding “STEM learning” beyond K-20, to look at adult learners and how the ways adults communicate and learn transportation concepts impacts community involvement and planning decisions.


WTS International’s Transportation You – DC Youth Summit & Philadelphia Transportation You Mentoring Program

WTS is dedicated to building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women. With nearly 6,000 members, including both women and men, WTS is turning the glass ceiling into a career portal through its professional programs, networking opportunities, and unparalleled access to industry and government leaders. The DC Youth Summit is Transportation YOU’s flagship conference is an opportunity for select Transportation YOU participants from across the country and their mentors to gather. For the past five years WTS Philadelphia hosted the Transportation YOU mentoring program. This effort works with a dozen women professionals (e.g., planners, engineers, accountants) who volunteer their time as mentors for the 10-month program.

Volpe Transportation STEM outreach program in Cambridge, MA.  Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, has coordinated outreach efforts to engage their staff in STEM activities in the Cambridge public schools and local colleges.  While some programs include traditional in-school activities and presentations, Volpe has initiated a series of efforts to establish more significant connections with interested and engaged students, including e-mentoring through Netpals working with Cambridge Schools Volunteers, engaging 1:1 with 7th graders preparing for a Science Olympiad providing guidance on research and implementation as well as discussing careers and other opportunities. They also host “Volpe Days” for classes from local schools, a summer transportation institute, local colleges and a program for North Carolina STEM scholars to spend time at Volpe, meeting staff researchers, experiencing Volpe’s labs and simulators and engaging in various conversations in the workplace.  VOLPE also engages in the Cambridge Science Festival, Volpe TED Talks, STEAM nights in local Cambridge schools with science and research demonstrations and an emerging program working with Wellesley College on creating a multi-college effort to grow a pipeline of future workers in Big Data especially targeting women.

Summer Brain Games at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  Summer Brain Games explore how to keep kids engaged and learning science over the summer.  In 2016 the focus is on hands-on science activities related to the theme of travel offering eight weeks of at-home science experiments. Kids and their families will be on the move with experiments that teach about engineering, physics, materials science and other STEM subjects as they launch a glider, move a vehicle with propulsion, engineer a parachute and more. Additional exhibits in the Transportation Gallery, or the special exhibit “Brick by Brick” also showcase how museums can be excellent year-round partners in education and stimulating interest in science and transportation careers.


Marcia Ferranto, President and CEO, WTS International

She was named one of Metro magazine’s “Most Influential People of the Decade,” and is known in the non-profit world for her reputation as a change agent. Responsible for the overall administration, management, and operations of both WTS International and its associated charity, WTS Foundation, Ms. Ferranto has grown the association’s membership, engaged new corporate partners, and has expanded its reach throughout the industry since she took on her role in February of 2010. Prior to leading WTS International, Ms. Ferranto served as the Executive Director of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation in Delaware, where she refocused the organization’s mission and vision from a tourist attraction to an educational icon for the state of Delaware.

Helen A. BlackmanDirector, Office of Organizational Culture and Work Life at Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center coordinates Volpe’s STEM outreach efforts as well as organizational change initiatives related to employees and employee engagement at Volpe, including diversity awareness, mentoring, team development, and other organizational development programs that strengthen organizational culture.

Brett Nicholas is currently the Manager of Community Initiatives in the Center for the Advancement of Science (CASE) at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  In this role, Brett manages the Museum’s After-School Science Club program along with other programs focused on providing hands-on, inquiry-based STEM learning experiences for youth and families outside of the Museum.  Brett has a B.S. in Biology from Wright State University and a M.Ed. in Curriculum Design and Instructional Leadership from University of Illinois, Chicago.  Professionally he has 2 years’ experience as a middle school science teacher in the Chicago Public School system and 12 years’ experience as an informal science educator at the Museum of Science and Industry.

 Questions:  Glenn McRae, NETWC, (802) 656-1317   [email protected]

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