Students discover the relevance of science to transportation

Kesha Williams
July 29, 2013students-discover-the-rel Students from Camden, Chowan, Currituck, and Pasquotank counties came to ECSU's Technology Department for the National Summer Transportation Institute. Now they understand the important role science plays in something they've enjoyed all their lives-transportation. The four-week program, held from June 24 to July 24, introduces them to applications of computer programming, microcontrollers, robotics, and circuit design, and other topics that relate to transportation. Students are selected based on their grades in school and their interest in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics. ECSU professors, Dr. Ellis Lawrence and Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, received a $55,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to sponsor the institute. Lawrence, a professor in the university's Department of Technology, has directed the summer program for high school students over the past 13 years. The program also sheds light on careers in the transportation industry. Many of those careers call for strong skills in math, science, engineering and technology. The institute exposes students to various modes of transportation by land, air and water. Students also learn how critical safety measures are to the transportation industry. The camp agenda includes hands-on activities by Lawrence and Rawat. The professors and student mentors incorporate field trips to businesses and government agencies related to transportation. Lawrence credits the Federal Highway Administration and the NC Department of Transportation for funding the program that reveals the complex challenges of public transportation. The program shows youths how public transportation may change in the future. "The funding for this STI program over the last 14 years would total over $750,000 and the NCDOT has supplied over 60 students with internships," Lawrence said. "That's over $210,000 paid to our students for internships. We are grateful for the assistance of these two agencies." Rawat, who serves as chair of ECSU's Department of Technology and the 'co-director of the 'Summer Transportation Institute, said once students complete the program, they are better prepared to enter college. Students also learned how math and science can be applied to real-world engineering and technology areas. Rawat said the program proved to be more difficult than many of the youngsters expected, but the challenge was good for them. Rawat emphasized that the 'Summer Transportation Institute would not have been complete without field trips highlighting the progress made by pioneers in the industry and showing the challenges and rewards professionals experience each day. Students took field trips to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Dare County, N.C., NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., NCDOT's Division of Aviation in Raleigh, NC, and Joe Gibbs Racing Complex in Huntersville, NC. Guest speakers at those sites and on campus highlighted career options in the transportation industry for the youths. Rawat said students happened to meet Governor Pat McCrory during a field trip to the NC Division of Aviation airport. McCrory was scheduled to fly out of the airport. When he arrived at the hangar, he greeted the students and learned about their participation in the institute. He also posed for pictures and wished them success in the program and future. The final event of the institute was an awards ceremony on July 24 where Chancellor Charles Becton served as the guest speaker. Each year the students compete for awards that recognize them for their achievements in class, their test scores and their successful completion of a micro controller project. Kristofer Grimes, a student from Currituck High School, won first place and Samuel Lindsay, a student from Northeastern High School, won second place. For more information on the transportation institute and the application process, contact Dr. Ellis Lawrence at eelawrence@mail.ecsu.edu, or Dr. Kuldeep Rawat at ksrawat@mail.ecsu.edu.