Engineers month efforts fire up future transportation professionals

February has come and gone, but students will remember their first engineering lessons as they start their careers. That, anyway, is the hope behind National Engineers Month, an effort to get students excited about engineering.

Each February, professional engineers volunteer to visit kindergarten-through-12th-grade classrooms to describe their jobs, get children participating in problem-solving exercises and having fun while using math and science. And, in one case, showing silly video clips from movies made before the students were born.

That, anyway, was the case at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Feb. 22 and 23, where OTREC’s Jon Makler presented on transportation engineering. Asking how people get interested in transportation engineering, he showed a clip from “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” depicting a family stuck for hours in a fearsome traffic circle:











Makler engaged his audience with real-world transportation puzzles that doubled as algebra problems. The students calculated travel times to Seattle on various modes, considering access to airports and train stations alongside driving.

Students then watched a helmet-cam video produced by Portland Bureau of Transportation signal guru Peter Koonce and calculated how fast and slow they could cycle and still hit every green light in downtown Portland:

The effort was one of many in the National Engineers Month program, managed by the Business Education Compact since 1995. The program aims to inspire students and bring careers in engineering within their grasp.

The Oregon Department of Transportation again turned out in force for the program, with staff members presenting in 31 schools. The department highlighted some of its employee engineers’ efforts in videos here:

and here:

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