Transportation and Civil Engineering Program | News

TRAC: Transportation and Civil Engineering Program Overview


American Association of State Highway Transportation Offices (AASHTO) TRAC offers eight Modules. Modules (*except Bridge Builder) can begin at any time during the academic school year. Any of the TRAC PAC 2 modules can be applied as classroom activities or as after-school activities.

*Bridge Builder Module begins in September and students submit projects in February

AASHTO TRAC brings hands-on STEM principles in engineering to classrooms in thirty states nationwide to encourage students to embark on this highly in-demand career field.

Bridge Builder Module

(Registration Labor Day – first Friday in November)

With the Bridge Builder Module, students will practice the math and science concepts a structural engineer uses to create a bridge. These concepts are presented individually through five activities, culminating in the construction of the students’ own creations, as they apply math and physics skills. This interactive module engages students from the first activity to the last with computer-based learning, demonstrations, computer-based design and model construction.

Magnetic Levitation Module

Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) may sound like science fiction but the fact is, this technology is relevant in today’s middle school general science classes and high school physics classes. In the TRAC PAC 2 MagLev Module, students put magnetic levitation cars through the paces while learning Newton’s First and Second Laws of Motion with six interactive activities. Civil Engineers rely on these two concepts when designing new roadways and developing ways to keep our roads safe.

City Planning

(Social Studies and STEM)

A team activity to promote the concepts of design, problem solving, critical thinking, and group decision making. In this module students learn how to improve a city with poor zoning and transportation problems. Teams will take on challenges to meet the needs of city planning and act to best place roads, utilities and zoning areas. Best of all this TRAC PAC 2 meets STEM standards as well as, National Council for the Social Studies Standards.

Highway Development and the Environment

This TRAC PAC 2 module allows students to learn their impact on the environment and how transportation engineers must factor key concepts from this area in their designs. The topics of erosion, sedimentation and filtration are presented to the students from the perspective of a highway engineer. When they take on the role of an Environmental Specialist, students will examine the environmental issues city planning, air quality, water quality, sound pollution, and habitat loss. At the end of the module students must present the impact of a new highway in a mock community hearing and their solutions for a “vote” of approval.

Highway Safety

The Highway Safety module geared towards high school physics classes, puts students on the road to physics success with three interactive activities including: physics involved with automotive accidents, effects of a collision with a fixed object, and the impact of a vehicle hitting a crash barrier. In addition, students learn traffic engineering concepts such as congestion and traffic volume and sight distance in relations to scale speed. These topics are explored using MSC, Software Corporation’s Interactive Physics™ education software to illustrate the results of vehicle impacts. Variables such as size, mass and friction, speed, force and energy absorption are all explored with interactive software to put students in the seat of an MDOT SHA Civil Engineer in this module.

Motion and the Transportation Engineer

A great module for both middle and high school students, this TRAC PAC 2 module introduces the principles of motion, energy, and Newton’s laws of motion using several interactive activities. Students will use lab equipment to design their own system for measuring speed and magnetic levitation cars to illustrate the effects of a collision (analyzing collisions and computing conservation of energy). Students will also use eggs to understand the influence of distance of force and a pendulum to illustrate the impact change in direction has in a collision. A barrier experiment is also included to help students understand the best ways to stop a moving vehicle.

Roadway Design and Construction

This TRAC PAC 2 module combines mathematics, social studies and technology so students can better understand all the factors in Highway Design and Construction. Through five activities students will learn data visualization, law of sines, societal impact of transportation systems, and computer algorithms. Road capacity, design consequences, budgets, and environmental impact must be considered when students are asked to design and build a new roadway. To do this, students will utilize spreadsheets, computer-based modeling, and real estate pricing tools. Mathematics will be applied to road design using High Roads CAD software to create a road and explore curves. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) concepts of sensors, traffic management systems and software engineering are also introduced.

Traffic Technology

In this TRAC PAC 2 students in 7th and 8th grade science classes or high school physics classes explore linear motion, basic circuits and Boolean logic with the Traffic Technology module. Traffic Technology includes five activities to introduce concepts to calculate braking distance, traffic light data calculations, building traffic light logic sequence, electrical theory, and computer programming. A hands-on research project allows students to explore the physics concepts used to design the mechanism that changes traffic signals from red to green.