MATC's educational initiatives are quickly becoming a showpiece of the UTC program thanks to the high priority it receives in terms of faculty involvement and financial support. Our focus remains on a very select amount of critical elements such as stipend support for the undergraduate and graduate students, curriculum enhancement, faculty development, and educational outreach to K-12 students. With these, our goal is to continue to pursue new avenues and foundations in transportation education that will simultaneously recruit new students into the transportation field, as well as expose them to multi-disciplinary issues by the transportation professionals in academia and the public and private sectors.
Even though transportation systems and the industry have become ever-more technologically intertwined, the number of transportation research oriented students produced by national universities is declining. One of the hallmark strategies underpinning the design of the Region 7 UTC educational activities is that the greatest potential for reversing the paucity of domestic students pursing advanced transportation degrees is to offer timely, sophisticated education and research training experiences, especially to students from the underrepresented groups. With this in mind, MATC is always working to involve more students within a multitude of engineering disciplines — from intelligent transportation systems, roadway and bridge design, construction, and evaluation and maintenance.
The MATC intern program has a rich history of offering unique real-world experiences in transportation to outstanding undergraduate students. The program began at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has since expanded include consortium members across Region VII. Providing internship experiences helps recruit graduates into the profession and into graduate programs, with nearly 75% of interns continuing on to a career in a transportation-related field. Depending on their interests and background, interns are assigned to projects with private consultants, public agencies, or university researchers. Some students also intern for a second year for a more in-depth experience.
With funding from MATC, the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Post-Secondary Education and the U.S. Department of Transportation Garrett Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program, the Summer Institute was created to enhance the skills of middle and high school math, science, and industrial technology teachers in the use and application of real-life engineering resources.
The Graduate Education Program provides the Scholars Program for Safety and Risk to students that will be designed to attract U.S. students to the transportation field. Comprised of summer research activities and fellowships, students research and identify relevant transportation-related safety issues and their solutions, all while working with mentors who are practicing transportation professionals.
To spark interest in transportation careers, MATC knows that efforts must begin long before students reach the university level. For this reason, MATC offers a variety of unique tours, field trips, and exciting outreach activities for K-12 students. Through these tours and activities, students learn about the importance of transportation engineering and the variety of interesting career opportunities in the field.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Mid-America Transportation Center piloted an innovative transportation engineering after-school club for middle school students in Lincoln, Nebraska. Led by a middle school science teacher and MATC graduate students in conjunction with the Community Learning Centers program at Culler Middle School, students learn about engineering and transportation through hands-on activities that encourage student inquiry. The program is now expanding to five schools in Lincoln.