TREC education program grows with MESA Day and ChickTech workshop

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ChickTech workshop participants tour the campus with Clint Culpepper of the PSU Bike Hub

Transportation workforce development doesn't always take place at the university level. Students' interest in transportation can start much earlier than that, which is why TREC is always looking for ways to engage elementary and high school students in transportation. Under the guidance of Lisa Patterson, our new technology transfer and workforce development program manager, TREC's education programs continue to expand. Many of our education efforts focus on drawing women and minorities, who are often underrepresented in STEM fields, to consider the possibilities of transportation as a profession.

On Tuesday, May 16, Patterson held an information table at Oregon's 2017 MESA Day, an annual state student engineering competition, to offer students a look at some of TREC's upcoming education programs. These included a ChickTech workshop as well as TREC's second Summer Transportation Institute, a free transportation-focused summer camp for which applications are now being accepted.

TREC hosted the ChickTech workshop on Saturday, May 20 at Portland State University, offering a GIS “crash” course for high school girls.

The workshop, held in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) lab of PSU’s Engineering Building, consisted of a morning instruction session and an afternoon applied activity. The day also incorporated a lunchtime walking tour of active transportation infrastructure around the Portland State campus. The workshop was led by Kristina Currans and Sirisha Kothuri of Portland State University, and Becky Hewitt and Kyra Schneider of Angelo Planning Group.

The goal of the one-day workshop was to familiarize the students with spatial mapping and analysis by working with the vehicle crash data for the city of Portland.

Currans (at right, helping a student at the GIS workshop) and Kothuri have both been NITC scholars and NITC dissertation fellows. Kothuri earned her Ph.D. from Portland State in civil and environmental engineering and now works as a postdoctoral research associate. Currans defended her dissertation in April 2017 and will graduate this spring with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering. Their experiences as graduate students working with the NITC program made them perfectly poised to show high school girls the possibilities of higher education in transportation.

In the morning they introduced the girls to the basic elements of ArcGIS including importing data, exploring the variables and searching through the spatial database, and processing the data in different ways.

A lunchtime walking tour was led by Clint Culpepper, the bicycle program coordinator for the PSU Bike Hub. The tour highlighted sustainable transportation facilities on the PSU campus.

After the campus infrastructure tour, participants were challenged to use their newfound GIS skills to create their own Google maps.

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