​Program Provides Students Opportunities to Apply Math and Science Principles to Real-World Transportation and Civil Engineering Challenges

(April 25, 2022) –The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is proud to announce that three middle school students enrolled in its Transportation and Civil Engineering (TRAC) program took home first place honors in the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) National TRAC Bridge Challenge.   

Tiger Construction Inc., a team of eighth-grade students from the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation’s Chesapeake Math and Information Technology (CMIT) Academy Middle School in Prince George’s County won the strength-to-weight category for seventh- and eighth-graders with their truss bridge design made from bonsai wood. Team members from the Laurel school are Joseph Tinio, Martin Simon-Ebughu and Christian Medina.     

​​ Members of Tiger Construction Inc. include, from left, Christian Medina, Martin Simon-Ebughu, Joseph Tinio
Members of Tiger Construction Inc. include, from left, Christian Medina, Martin Simon-Ebu​ghu, Joseph Tinio

“With all of the educational challenges of the past two years, it’s incredible how engaged and focused students have remained in our TRAC program,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith. “Joseph, Martin and Christian invested countless hours learning and practicing bridge design principles, and we couldn’t be more proud of their dedication and perseverance. We’re hopeful their hard work in the classroom may lead them to careers in planning, engineering, environmental science or transportation.”   

The national bridge and structure competition is typically held in person at AASHTO’s spring meeting. The competition is a one-day event that culminates nearly eight months of work from the teams. The student teams construct model bridges made from kits provided by the TRAC program that include glue and balsa wood.

Using infrastructure software, students design their bridges, build prototypes and test them to gauge the upper limits of the strength-to-weight ratio of their designs.   

The event was held as a virtual showcase in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the event was still virtual, yet retuned to a competitive format with nine teams selected as finalists from a pool of 84 submissions. The winning teams were selected based on evaluations of their virtual presentation. As the winners, members of Team Tiger Construction Inc., received $400 e-gift cards.

MDOT SHA has participated in the TRAC program since 2017, training teachers and mentoring students in the classroom. Designed to use in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes, the program is offered to middle and high school students in Maryland. Students apply math and science principles to real-world transportation and civil engineering challenges.   

“Congratulations to Coach Natalie Crespo-Montano and her team for the successful bridge-building partnership with MDOT, resulting in a first-place win at the National TRAC Bridge Challenge,” said CMIT Academy Principal Andrew Brauer. “We are excited for the students and thankful to Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation for its support and STEM-promoting activities in our school.”