Twenty-seven students got a hands-on introduction to transportation at the second annual CTS-hosted National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) in July. The interactive two-week day camp, open to students entering grades 7–9, featured classroom and lab sessions with transportation experts as well as field trips to facilities across the Twin Cities.
Throughout the program, NSTI campers learned about a wide range of transportation topics and careers, including safety, trucking, aviation, transit, and human factors. Other activities included an extensive tour of the U of M campus and sessions on public speaking and career decision making.
Some of the students’ favorite activities were:
- Seeing how road signs are made at the Anoka County Highway Department
- Getting to see bridge construction up close during a boat tour of the St. Croix Crossing bridge site
- Riding through the light-rail train wash at Metro Transit
- Exploring a police car during a presentation on safety by the U of M Police Department
- Watching planes and a helicopter take off while touring St. Paul’s Holman field—and getting a glimpse inside the air traffic control tower
- Investigating equipment at Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Maintenance and Truck Fabrication facilities
- Using driving simulators to learn about the risks of distracted driving in a program by UPS Road Code
Another highlight for campers was participating in a bridge-building project over the course of the program. With guidance from MnDOT engineers, campers worked in small groups to construct popsicle-stick bridges. The bridges were tested at the camp’s closing ceremony to see which group built the strongest structure.
Overall, camper evaluations indicate that the program helped students become more aware of the wide range of possible careers in transportation. Parents reported that students not only enjoyed the camp but also took the lessons they learned to heart.
“[My daughter] became more aware of the importance of road safety,” one parent said. “She’s constantly making sure we are not touching our phones while we’re driving.”
NSTI is part of a national program designed to attract a diverse range of students to education and career opportunities in transportation. It was sponsored by CTS with funding from the Federal Highway Administration administered by MnDOT.
Tentative dates for next year’s camp are July 17–28, 2017. Application materials will be available in early 2017.