By Carlee Guthaus
Flying into the Ronald Reagan International Airport for the WTS Transportation YOU DC Summit was quite magical. It was 11pm and I was sleepy from traveling for nine hours that day, so it was imposing to see a majority of the National Mall from the air. Every minuscule detail of a building or street that was remotely related to our nation’s history was incredible to see, especially from the sky. Little did I know, though, that I was going to have the opportunity to see much more than the tourist destinations of our country’s capital.
Forty-four mentees and mentors, a committee of successful women, and myself gathered at the Mayflower Hotel on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Despite being from various points of the country, many of us mingled with ease. The mentors shared stories about their professional life and the mentees talked about what we plan to do after high school. Dinner that night paved the way for the rest of the summit.
During the five days of the program, we explored tourist destinations of D.C. and federal buildings, and even got to go inside the White House. One of my favorite tours of the Summit was traveling to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia. NTSB investigated flight TWA 800, the plane that crashed over the Atlantic Ocean in 1996 after taking off from JFK airport. We were able to go inside the hangar at the office and see the reconstruction of this flight. It was one of the most amazing but heart-wrenching sites I have ever laid my eyes on. Only 40% of the flight was reconstructed to properly investigate the crash. Despite not seeing the entire plane, it was still incredible to see a real life application of engineering. The sad aspect of the reconstruction was actually looking inside the plane from the front. NTSB reconstructed and placed the seats in their exact spots before the flight
After the NTSB tour, we traveled to the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia. The mentees were able to tour different parts of the facility, including the 3D simulation lab (that President Obama visited!), the connected vehicles lab, and the concrete lab. We learned about the different tasks within the department and how each of them are connected to each other. For example, the 3D simulation lab tests new highway designs while the concrete lab simultaneously tests innovative concrete to use. At the end of our tour, we all received key chains made with ultra-high-performance concrete. It was definitely the highlight of my day.
Transportation YOU DC Summit was truly the experience of a lifetime. A career in transportation never seemed like a valid option for me, but since the five days on the east coast, I am more and more intrigued with the thought of working for the Department of Transportation after college. WTS Foundation and its sponsors have provided a wonderful experience for so many young ladies across the United States. I am confident that I will stay involved with this organization for many years to come.