UAB K-12 Workforce Development (2013)

PI: Virginia Sisiopiku, Ph.D.

The proposed project expands K-12 engineering workforce development and outreach efforts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) that introduce transportation engineering as a career to students and parents. Exposing young students and parents to transportation will help to recruit more and brighter students to the transportation field. The proposed activities can serve as a model that other Universities can replicate to expand the workforce of transportation professionals and the project results are immediately transferable.  The objective of this project is to expose K-12 students to transportation engineering through interactive activities, presentations, and workshops, and spark an interest in considering engineering, in general, and transportation engineering, in particular, as a future career path.Through this project we will coordinate K-12 workforce development activities in support of STRIDE’s workforce development and outreach efforts. These include:

  • Family Engineering, and
  • Workshops for Introducing Girls to Engineering

Family Engineering Event

UAB will plan and host Kids in Engineering Day, a Family Engineering event targeting 4th and 5th graders. The event will feature activities involving different types of engineering, including transportation engineering. Children from the surrounding school districts will come to UAB and engage in experiments related to engineering.  As with the Family Engineering Nights, transportation activities will be based on the Family Engineering book. We plan on having many different engineering stations set up for the kids and they will rotate throughout. We will also have presentations given by professors and engineers about careers in the engineering field, including transportation for a target audience of parents who would choose to attend. The event will be organized by UAB in partnership with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  This event has many common elements as compared to the Family Engineering Nights with the main difference being bringing students from different schools together in one setting at UAB rather than delivering a program to select schools.

Workshops for Introducing Girls to Engineering

In the spring of 2014 UAB will host the UAB Girls in Science and Engineering Day.  This event will target local middle school aged girls from the Birmingham area and will invite them to come to the UAB campus on a Saturday. The students will rotate through different fun science and engineering workshops led by female UAB professors, scientists, or grad students.  This would be an all-female event to reinforce the notion that girls have all it takes to address engineering challenges. A transportation engineering workshop will be designed and delivered as part of the program. The workshop would be scientifically-based, yet fun, engaging, and active for the girls.  Women UAB student volunteers from the Department of Civil Engineering and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) will be recruited to assist with the event.

The project objectives will be accomplished via the following tasks:

Task 1: Organize events: This task will focus on handling pre-event logistics such as contacting local schools, obtaining commitment for participation, meeting with professional organizations and student chapter representatives to schedule activities, set event dates and reserve space, advertise events, obtain necessary materials for hands-on workshops, and signing up volunteers

Task 2: Conduct events: This task will involve setting up for each event, training volunteers on their expected roles and responsibilities, welcoming participants, completing scheduled activities, dismissing participants and cleaning up.

Task 3: Technology Transfer: This task will summarize activities undertaken in the project in a report that will be prepared according to STRIDE reporting requirements. Also, activities and accomplishments will be presented at the STRIDE Regional conference and similar venues.

The project will create an excellent opportunity for collaborations between faculty and students in transportation engineering and other engineering disciplines at UAB as well as between engineering professional societies such as SWE and ITE, UAB, and the local community.

The planned activities focus on delivery of educational programs that actively engage K-12 children in activities relating to transportation. As students become familiar with transportation engineering principles early on and build an understanding of the important connections between engineering and everyday life, they would be more likely to consider engineering as a career path, and choose to pursue training in transportation engineering in the future.