MNTRC Newsletter Vol 20, Issue 2: Fall 2013

NTSI stimulates high school students


Errol Noel, PhD, Director, Howard University Transportation Research Center

NTSI students with sign-making equipment.

Students try their skills in the District DOT sign shop.

HOWARD UNIVERSITY NEWS – Howard University has been hosting the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) on campus in Washington DC since 1998. More than 300 students have participated. The objective is to expose high school students to the many opportunities available in transportation and to inspire them to pursue transportation professions through a variety of educational, motivational, recreational, and cultural activities.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) fund the program. The financial support provides speakers, field trips, classroom materials, mentors and lunch for the program at no cost to the participants.

College students serve as mentors

Students working with bridge components.

At Howard, students learn how a bridge is constructed.

Each year, the Howard University Transportation Research Team selects 25-35 students to participate in a four-week, non-residential program on campus. Applications are accepted from students in junior and senior high school. This year’s program consisted of 26 students from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia region. The Howard staff is supplemented by the addition of 4–6 college students to provide administrative support, manage logistics, and most important, to be mentors for the students during the summer tenure. The 2013 team of mentors had backgrounds in mechanical engineering (PhD applicant), and undergraduate majors in civil engineering, electrical engineering, biology, and accounting. 

The students visited Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), DDOT, Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center, (FHRC), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. They also took a multimodal trip to the Baltimore Aquarium. 

Professional development included in program

The students had professional development and technical classroom and lab sessions. Topics covered Excel, Word, PowerPoint, web development, journal writing, self-esteem and peer pressure, formal dining etiquette, FHWA transportation careers, career development, resume writing, and interviewing techniques. They also built a steel bridge in the lab.

At the end of the program, a ceremony acknowledged participant completion and provided an opportunity for the students to do a presentation on their STI experience. This year, the student teams gave presentations on DDOT, MSHA, TFHRC, FHWA, and WMATA. The program audience consisted of parents, staff members from DDOT, FHWA, the Office of Youth Empowerment Child and Family Services, and the Howard support team. Students received various team and individual awards, along with certificates of completion.