Students Find Field of Transportation Fascinating
The best place to see Baltimore's working port is from the water.
Some of the high school students in the Summer Transportation Institute (STI) stepped gingerly onto the top deck of the boat, grabbing at railings, while other stepped confidently, asking questions about the depth of the water and the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The students were aboard the Inner Harbor Spirit, enjoying a two-hour cruise past marine terminals, container ships, tugboats and the Key bridge. And, being typical teen-agers, they found their sea legs enough later to dance to music by the Spirit's DJ.
STI, which is sponsored by Morgan State University's National Transportation Center with funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the Maryland State Highway Administration, exposes high school students to all aspects of the transportation field as well as a university campus in a four-week enrichment program that includes speakers and field trips.
"We learned what transportation really is - that's pretty cool," said Malee McCarthy, 16, a student at Western School of Technology who plans to major in business or accounting in college. She said she would definitely be interested in incorporating that focus with transportation.
Ombolade Odedoyin, 15, a student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, particularly enjoyed the speakers from various transportation agencies who shared their stories. "It was inspiring," he said.
"I liked the field trips," said Maya Carter, 15. "I like learning new things." A favorite of students was a trip to the Maryland Department of Transportation to get an up-close look at road signs, and they enjoyed a more primitive form of transportation, horseback riding.
The program concluded on July 29, 2016, with a banquet for students and their families.
The keynote speaker was Gregory Johnson, who is the administrator for the State Highway Administration, overseeing some 3,200 employees.
"Everyday transportation touches our lives," he said.
He detailed the various roles of the SHA; in last winter's record-setting snow, the SHA plowed enough snow to fill enough dump trucks to circle the earth and, as the state's largest landowner, the SHA spends a lot of time cutting grass.
"We have a number of engineers, civil, mechanical and electrical, who design roadways plans and signal operations," he said. "They do a number of things you take for granted when traveling." He detailed the exciting developments in transportation, including autonomous vehicles and connected infrastructure.
"I need folks like yourself," he said.
He also spoke about the importance of having a diverse transportation field, citing the history of building highways through poor neighborhoods. He noted that Baltimore stopped I-70 from cutting a swatch across Baltimore, creating a historic precedent that resulted in legislation ensuring highways aren't built without public hearings.
"Even if you don't become a transportation professional, it is important to be an educated transportation consumer," he noted.