STI, MSSTI Inspire Future Workforce
Would it work with middle school students?
For 21 years, the National Transportation Center at Morgan State University has run its highly successful Summer Transportation Institute, which gives 20 high school students a chance to experience the world of transportation professionals.
The free, four-week program includes field trips, hands-on activities, SAT prep and recreation on campus. Over the years, several students have gone on to major in engineering or transportation studies.
This year, the National Transportation Center and a new research, education and public outreach center at Morgan, the Urban Mobility & Equity Center, expanded the summer offerings to include a program for 17 middle school students. While the high school students focused on aviation -- including building a motorized airplane, touring aviation museums and even "flying" a plane in a flight simulator -- the middle schoolers learned about bridge construction. They built bridges from Popsicle sticks and visited the region's bridges, whose construction and condition ranged from stately to dilapidated.
And it worked -- the Middle School Summer Transportation Initiative (MSSTI) proved to be just as popular as the high school version.
Ariana Makumi, who will enter sixth grade in the fall, likes to draw and feels that would combine well with engineering or architecture.
"There's nothing that's not involved in engineering," she said. "When we built the bridges it was really fun. Engineers do everything you do -- the food you eat has to be transported from all over the world so you can eat it."
She enjoyed learning about Glenn L. Martin after a visit to the airport and aviation museum that bears his name. "It was really cool," she said. "I had never been up close to a plane before. Some of the planes were actually used in World War II."
Both programs concluded on July 28, 2017, with a banquet featuring keynote speaker Greg Slater, the administrator of the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration.
"We need you as a group of young, creative minds of all interests to shape this transportation field," he told the students. "Careers in transportation matter -- we shape communities ... we can degrade the quality of life or enhance it -- it matters."
The summer programs are not just enrichment for students, they introduce them to the field of transportation, creating the future workforce.
Amina Georgie, a senior at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology who is interested in engineering, came to STI to explore that interest.
"Everything is for free -- that's a plus," she said. "I liked that it had SAT prep; I thought it would be a good opportunity."
Said Kobe White, a junior at New Town High School, "I wanted to do something in science. After this, I developed a new love for transportation - it seems more interesting than I thought."
Dr. Andrew Farkas, director of both UMEC and the NTC, said, "This is the first year for the middle school program, and a number of people have told me -- individuals who made presentations to the middle-schoolers -- how inquisitive they were and what good questions they asked. They had nothing but good things to say."
Jawiyambe Thomas-James went through STI in 2012 and now is a sophomore majoring in civil engineering at Morgan.
"The most memorable thing was definitely the trip to Virginia Tech and visiting their SmartRoad," he recalls. "STI influenced my decision to attend Morgan for engineering by exposing me to the staff and the environment in the engineering department. The program showed me how I would be treated and expected to perform here at Morgan. The program also gave me an insight on whether I wanted to focus on transportation engineering or civil engineering, and how I could possibly work in both focuses in the future."