Beat the Traffic High School Camp

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Dozens of students from througout high schools in Atlanta donned their best "driving shoes" and pretended to be vehicles walking through a mock intersection that had no control.  The intersection "mumble jumble" activity was part of a week-long summer camp offered in 2010.  Through the activity, students learned how yield signs, stop signs, traffic lights and other intersection controls help vehicles move safely through an intersection.  Students then used simulation software to design signal timing plans for several intersections.  The week culminated in a design project in which students created their own signal timing plans which they tested using the mock-up intersection (with the students as vehicles).  The Georgia Department of Transportation loaned traffic signals for the camp.

Dr. Garrow and Dr. Hunter teamed up with Georgia Tech’s Center for Ed­ucation Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) to offer the camp. Doctoral candi­date Dwayne Henclewood and Mshadoni Smith (who graduated with her doctoral degree last year) helped direct the camp, which was several years in the making.

“Once they could touch the things we were teaching them, they became more excited about the concepts,” Henclewood acknowledged. “Some of the kids didn’t have their driver’s license, so we help them with that basic knowledge in order to complete the challenges,” he added. Using SYNCHRO + SimTraf­fic, a traffic timing optimization and simulation package, students learn to visualize how the timing of traffic sig­nals in a corridor affects the ability of vehicles to travel through the corridor without encountering a red light.

Dr. Hunter shows high school students how to use software to time traffic lights

Evaluations showed that the camp was very effective in increasing the students’ awareness of transportation engineering, helping students understand how trans­portation engineering research relates to the real world, and helping students understand career opportunities in transportation engineering. Henclewood says that just being at Georgia Tech is a heady experience for stu­dents. “Being on the Georgia Tech campus helps them feel they do belong here,” he says. “They think ‘I can do this. I can be successful.’”

The original concept for BEAT was developed as part of a Garrett A. Morgan grant from the Federal Highway Ad­ministration. A paper, outlying the curriculum developed for the camp, won a regional award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and was a finalist at the national meeting. The authors are Dwayne Henclewood, Mshadoni Smith, Laurie Garrow, Angshu­man Guin, Michael Hunter, and Marion Usselman.