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It’s never too early to start teaching kids about careers in transportation. Though they might not be ready for complex engineering, elementary school children are more than ready to form ideas about their possible futures.

On July 27 at Poynter Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon, around 70 young Latina girls learned about different transportation modes, mapped their neighborhoods, and exchanged ideas with seven female professionals who work in transportation in the Portland metro area.

Lisa Patterson, TREC’s workforce development program manager, coordinated the event with Chicas Youth Development, a program of Adelante Mujeres. Patterson and a crew of six dedicated volunteers taught three transportation-focused workshops at a Chicas summer scholastic camp. 

The purpose of the workshops was to teach students about transportation concepts and introduce them to the possibility that they could grow up to work in transportation, an industry very much in need of a diverse workforce.

Patterson and volunteers Olivia Holden, Gwen Chambers, Molly McCormick, Erin Wardell, Jessica Pelz and Tegan Enloe spent the day in three workshops with different age groups, leading brainstorming exercises and encouraging the girls to think about the ways in which transportation affects their daily lives. 

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Internships are vital to connecting students with real-world practitioners and applying what they learn in the classroom. For student Stefan Bussey, this real-world experience was gained through working with the Signals, Street Lighting, and ITS Division at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. His assignment during his internship was to evaluate the pedestrian delay at 47 pedestrian crosswalk signals (also known as half-signals) across the city of Portland. 

He assisted in reviewing and modifying the signal timing at half-signals to make them more responsive to pedestrians. The changes he helped implement resulted in an overall 25.3% reduction in maximum pedestrian delay for the signals adjusted. The reduction in pedestrian delay at these crossings may help to increase foot trips and higher rates of pedestrian compliance. When asked about his experience working at the city of Portland, Stefan said, “What I got most out of the internship was a better understanding of how to time signalized intersections to better serve non-motorized modes of transportation while maintaining an acceptable level of service for motorized vehicles.” From the employer perspective, Peter Koonce expressed, “The internship was a great example of a student having a positive impact on the surrounding community by solving a real world problem. The City of Portland is fortunate to have the partnerships in place to have PSU work collaboratively to improve the sustainability of the...

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Wednesday, Jan. 26 dispatch from the TRB annual meeting in Washington, D.C.:

With transportation-related professions changing rapidly, the classroom needs to reflect or, better, drive those changes. Sessions throughout this week's Transportation Research Board annual meeting focused on classroom innovation in transportation education, with faculty at OTREC universities often in the forefront.

Those discussions continued Wednesday while the focus widened. Innovation within the classroom is needed, but it’s not enough. Increasingly, developments in transportation education need to incorporate the learning and training potential of the outside world.

The session “Transportation Education and Training Beyond the Traditional Classroom” featured four presentations, including one from OTREC visiting scholar Geoff Rose of Monash University in Australia. Rose’s presentation focused on online discussion forums.

Titled “Nurturing Student Learning in Transport Planning and Policy Through Assessable Online Discussions,” Rose’s presentation approached the forums as a supplement to traditional classroom instruction.

Teams from Southern Illinois University and from Louisiana State University and Louisiana Transportation Research Center internships and virtual learning environments, respectively. Karen Glitman, a program manager at the University of Vermont, gave a stirring...

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