Teachers Experience Engineering and Other STEM Concepts
The Teacher Transportation Institute, a program sponsored by the National Transportation Center at Morgan State University in cooperation with the Center for Continuing and Professional Studies, promotes STEM concepts and opportunities in the transportation field by giving K-12 teachers a chance to function as traffic engineers and design a roundabout.
During concluding presentations, the 12 teachers in the program this summer focused on design, safety and STEM education.
The Baltimore City teachers, who earned four AUs, studied the history and design of traffic roundabouts, visited and analyzed existing roundabouts and a problematic signalized intersection, and then working in teams designed their own roundabouts.
Sherina Bonaparte-LaTorre noted that roundabouts eliminate head-on collisions because traffic all flows in the same direction. Michael Canady added T-bone collisions are eliminated as well. Tonya Allen Grier focused on pedestrian safety, noting that crossing in the middle of the block or jaywalking is the leading cause of pedestrian accidents. Making roundabouts safe for pedestrian starts with design, and one team incorporated tactile pavement to help visually impaired students as well as solar-powered sensors for connected vehicles.
But the biggest advance, teachers agreed, is what they will take back to the classroom.
"I think what we take away as teachers is the skills needed," said Xiao Chen. "When we have science classes, these hands-on techniques are good for our students."
Added Bonapart-LaTorre, "What do students need to be prepared for these STEM careers?"
Joyce Kalish, a special educator at Western High School, noted that "many students lack basic math and algebraic skills," while Mei-Lin Fegan, a math teacher at Western, suggested elementary schools should focus on introductory-level STEM courses.
Michael Canady Jr. said designing a roundabout gave teachers an insight into the specific interactive steps engineers use to organize their ideas.
Added Richard Quinn, "For me, being a math teacher, I'm always looking for real-life applications."
But the teachers weren't just science and math instructors - elementary school, health and English teachers were included.
"The integration of art and science is critical to STEM success," said Inga Webster, a middle school teacher.
Dr. Andrew Farkas, director of the National Transportation Center, urged teachers "to convey to your students that we have a rich array of transportation degree programs at Morgan."