Rising to the Transportation Challenge—Students Apply STEM Solutions to Improve Transit

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170 Central Valley (California) students spent 3-10 weeks working on community improvement projects that resulted in an increased interest in both higher education and transportation-related learning
August 12, 2020
San José, CA

To ensure the efficient movement of people and products, we must prepare a new cohort of transportation professionals who are ready to lead a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable transportation industry. To help achieve this, the Mineta Transportation Institute sponsors a suite of workforce development opportunities. Most recently, Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) partners at the Fresno State Transportation Institute delivered The Fresno Transportation Challenge (FSTC) which encouraged K-8 student interest in transportation-related careers.  

Applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, 170 students from two Central Valley (California) schools spent between 3-10 weeks working on community improvement projects that resulted in an increased interest in both higher education and transportation-related learning.

Participants were divided into three groups (“makerspace” focused on hands-on projects,“computer science” focused on computer-based problem solving, and “english language arts” (ELA) which had limited interaction with the transportation project). Findings from qualitative and quantitative data revealed that the two groups most intensely involved in the FSTC reported higher levels of:

  • Learning about transportation opportunities and challenges;

  • Learning about, transportation and engineering related careers;

  • Interest in attending university and pursuing higher education;

  • 21st century skill development, including critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity; and

  • Learning about civic engagement and contributing to a healthier, more prosperous future for their community.

According to report author Dr. Christian Wandler, “The pedagogical approaches of action civics and eduScrum, which frame the challenge, created a meaningful context for the program, and allowed all students to enthusiastically engage in the work.” 

Additionally, the K-8 participants reported that close interactions with Fresno State University students encouraged discussion of transportation career pathways and general university application, requirements, and financial aid. 

MTI featured this research in an MTI Research Snaps webinar



At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Dr. Christian Wandler is an associate professor in research methods and statistics at California State University Fresno. Dr. Steven Hart is a professor at California State University Fresno.


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