Northern Utah Inspires Future Transportation Leaders

2014 aThe WTS Northern Utah Chapter hosted its second annual Transportation YOU Youth Summit this past spring. The event drew middle and high school girls from one of Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers in the transportation industry.

The chapter, along with the support of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), held an amazing event that would be sure to inspire future transportation leaders. Through their co-sponsorship of the event, the UDOT allowed the use of their facilities and the involvement of several staff members to participate in the day’s activities.

The summit included an inspirational opening and closing presentation by Teri Newell, UDOT Region Three Director, and Robin Hutcheson, Director of Transportation for Salt Lake City. The day was filled with sessions about wetland and hydrology considerations in transportation planning, construction materials and materials testing, and meteorology and traffic management.

Each session included hands-on activities or tours. In the wetlands and hydrology session, students were given the task of 2014 bplanning a new roadway through an area of identified wetlands to connect to communities while minimizing the impact to the wetlands and its associated hydrology and balancing those strategies with the potential effects to the neighborhoods through which the road would pass. In the materials session, students learned about the properties of construction materials, such as concrete, and then used combinations of materials, including sand, gravel, marbles, and stale marshmallows to create their own materials cylinder that was then crushed in a concrete press to test its strength. In the third session, students toured the UDOT Traffic Operations Center where they learned about fiber optic technology, traffic signal programming, and traffic camera monitoring. They also learned about weather forecasting and its importance in allowing the UDOT to proactively management roads, deploy snow plows, and otherwise ensure safe traveling conditions. By the end of the day, the once quiet and shy audience of girls had turned into a loud, inquisitive, and excited group of would-be transportation professionals!

The summit received high praise from the educators in attendance and the UDOT managers who either participated in or observed the event. Based on the success of the summit, the UDOT has expressed interest in forming a more permanent partnership with the Northern Utah Chapter to continue the Transportation YOU youth summit in the future and expand it to reach more schools and more areas of the state.

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