New England UTC hosts “Careers in Transportation Day”
On May 26th, 2016, The New England University Transportation Center (UTC) hosted “Careers in Transportation Day” for 15 high school sophomores and two teachers. The students came from the Boston Collegiate Charter School, whose mission it is to prepare each student for college. The purpose of the day was to try to give students a sense of the range of different kinds of careers and disciplines that touch transportation.
Dr. Lisa D’Ambrosio, UTC Associate Director of Partnerships, organized the workshop. The day began with students introducing themselves, telling the group about what their interests were in science, and where they might be starting to think about going to college. They then participated in a discussion about what they thought of when they heard the phrase “careers in transportation.” Many of the careers students offered focused on transportation operators. Following this discussion, Dr. D’Ambrosio gave a brief presentation on transportation as encompassing not only the careers the students listed, but anything to do with the movement of goods and people, including work in planning, design, engineering, and explaining human and systems behaviors.
The students then heard a series of brief presentations illustrating different kinds of work and research around transportation questions. During each presentation, the presenter described the path he or she took to where they were today, and after each talk students had ample time to ask questions. Dr. Eva Ponce (MIT CTL) talked about logistics, the importance of understanding the movement of freight and commercial goods and vehicles, and the use of mathematical models; she provided a brief description of UTC-funded work in Central Square in Cambridge, MA. Dan Brown (MIT AgeLab) described the work he did in building the RIDER (Real-time Intelligent Driving Environment Recording) System to capture a variety of different data easily, efficiently and cheaply from drivers, their vehicles and the environment. Will Angell (MIT AgeLab) presented the VeloAI project, software and hardware that he and colleagues developed to help cyclists bike more safely by giving them information about the environment (and potential hazards) around them. Dr. Alexis Bateman (CTL) talked about her work on green supply chains. Dr. Jon Dobres (MIT AgeLab) explained how his work on vision connects with human factors and transportation research. Finally, Dr. Chaiwoo Lee (MIT AgeLab and UTC) presented some survey research on drivers’ attitudes toward autonomous vehicles.
The brief talks demonstrated how STEM training – including the formation of hypotheses, data collection, design, testing, the creation of complex models and mathematical calculation – was important in solving challenging real world problems. The students also gained an appreciation of how transportation touches so much that we as humans do, and how their future interests may intersect with careers in or research about transportation.