January 27th, 2014
UDOT’s STEM Education InitiativeEmployee Focus, by Kris Peterson.
In an effort to promote greater support for Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) education, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has adopted a STEM Education Initiative to encourage more Utah students to consider careers in these fields.
STEM education generally supports the broadening of the study of engineering within each of the other subjects, and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only those in so-called “gifted” programs. In recent years, education leaders in Utah and throughout the West have become concerned over the lack of growth in the STEM education fields. As an end-user of STEM graduates from the state’s universities and colleges and Governor Herbert’s emphasis on education as one of his “cornerstones,” UDOT is looking for ways to promote and encourage more people to consider this education path.
What are the STEM disciplines? They consist of natural science fields such as Astrophysics, Atmospheric Sciences, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Nuclear Physics, and Physics. The Computer industry is represented with fields such as Computational Science, Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Software Engineering. Traditional Engineering fields are represented by Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering. There are potential careers in the technology sector, such as Biomechanics, Mathematical Biology, Nanotechnology, Neurobiology, Operations Research, Optics Mathematics, and Robotics. And Scientific Education is represented by opportunities in Applied Mathematics, Geographic Information Systems, Information Science, Instructional Technology, Psychology, and Statistics.
Employment projected through 2018 shows the computing industry (71%) making up the largest sector of STEM-related careers, with traditional engineering fields (16%) comprising the second largest career group. Mathematics-related careers (2%) are presently the smallest STEM sector.
UDOT presently has several efforts underway that are associated with its STEM Education Initiative. For example:
- UDOT Engineers Dave Schwartz and Lisa Wilson have teamed up to participate in an afterschool program at Bennion Elementary in Taylorsville, Salt Lake County. They are teaching STEM based topics twice a week to 10-12 students with over 50 interested in becoming part of the program. Their lesson plans come from The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Roadways into Developing Elementary Students (RIDES) education outreach curriculum support program. UDOT also provides the materials to support this local after-school program, in conjunction with funding from the private sector.
- The Weber School District has five teams participating in AASHTO’s National Bridge and Structure building competition. Part of AASHTO’s Transportation and Civil Engineering Program (TRAC), the student teams design and build balsa wood bridges based on the competition guidelines. The students prepare portfolios detailing their team’s efforts to design the bridges and build them. The portfolios are judged by a team of national experts. The top teams from across the country are selected to travel to the AASHTO Spring Conference (2014’s is in Louisville, Kentucky). Visit mmsd.transportation.org/trac_rides/awards.aspx for more information about this competition. UDOT sends our best wishes in this competition to our Utah bridge builders.
- UDOT is partnering with the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) to facilitate a one day workshop on May 22, 2014 at the Region 2 Headquarters. The workshop will focus on helping grade school age girls on becoming excited about a career in Transportation related STEM fields.
- UDOT employees are also participating in Career fairs throughout the state, encouraging all students to pursue careers in STEM related professions. UDOT engineers and staff are also spending time in classrooms to help students understand the excitement and satisfaction which comes from serving our community in STEM related fields of expertise.
- STEM students from local high schools and higher-ed institutions have been participating in internships with various UDOT departments and regions. These internships give students opportunities to apply what they’ve learned, and demonstrate their potential in the various STEM career fields.
UDOT is looking to expand its experiences in STEM education and hopes you will consider how you can be a part of this initiative. Look for future blog entries about the experiences your colleagues are having, and how you might become involved in this important effort.