As part of an effort to boost interest among talented students in science, technology, engineering and math programs, West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is partnering with The Edventure Group to promote STEM learning environments in several Preston County schools this fall.
Participating schools, including Preston High School, Bruceton School, Central Preston Middle School and West Preston Middle School, will study transportation.
“We think the field of transportation is a great technical platform for students to learn about STEM,” said David Martinelli, professor of civil and environmental engineering at WVU. “Everyone can relate to every day transportation issues, such as highway congestion and traffic accidents.”
Faculty and students in the Statler College will provide the technical expertise while representatives from the Morgantown-based Edventure Group will provide components related to development and delivery.
“The Edventure Group will be managing the projects and working with the teachers, students and college mentors to build lessons and activities that can be used in sixth through 12th grade classrooms,” said Edventure Group founder and former high school math teacher Lydotta Taylor. The Edventure Group, Martinelli said, will ensure the modules are applicable to state and federal learning outcomes.
Three civil engineering undergraduate and graduate students – Karly Hamric, Allison Arnold and Rachel James—will be teaching the modules. All three students are from West Virginia and, as peer mentors, can demonstrate the many possibilities available in STEM career fields. Avinash Unnikrishnan, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-principle investigator for the project, believes that having role models only a few years older than the high school students will motivate the teenagers and further promote confidence in the program.
“There are two aspects to this program,” said Unnikrishnan. “One is having access to knowledge and the belief and confidence that individuals can do STEM, and the other is having access to successful young role models, like the college students.”
The project will consist of three main topics within the sphere of transportation: traffic control devices, roadway design and transportation planning and logistics.
“The topic on traffic control devices addresses signs and pavement markings used for safety and efficiency as well as the more modern devices,” Martinelli said. “The session will approach topics such as how to employ traffic control to minimize delays and accidents. “
The study of roadway design will help students understand the geometrics involved in designing roads, bridges and critical intersections. “The section will help students understand the process involved in determining if turning lanes are wide enough for cars to maneuver specific turns,” Martinelli said. “We will also encourage practical problem solving, such as how to ensure proper drainage to prevent hydroplaning or ice accumulation.”
Transportation planning and logistics will encourage students to examine the financial responsibilities associated with transportation. “Students will be asked how to plan new projects and where to invest transportation dollars in order to get the most benefit,” Martinelli said. “This section will also include routing and scheduling for both freight and passenger vehicles.”
“As we develop learning modules, we will create a project website,” said Unnikrishnan. “The website will be a ready-made source others can access for free.”
The website will contain all the modules, along with pictures and explanations of various group projects. The goal is to provide other middle and high schools across the nation with access to this material so other rural schools may also benefit from this project.
“We’re not just developing modules to give presentations,” Martinelli said. “We’re working with school officials to create experiences that can be certified so teachers know they can be used to meet federal guidelines.”
“Students enjoy real world examples and applications of math and science,” Taylor said. “Engineering provides the perfect concepts and problems to make this happen.”
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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon