“It’s a weeklong academy to get girls introduced into transportation-related careers using math and science,” explained Deanna Flinchum, research director at the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation (CTR) research located on the UT Knoxville campus.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun. This whole experience has been great,” participant Isabelle Defreese said. “I definitely want to do it again next year. I have learned a lot.”
The Transportation Academy, run by the Center for Transportation Research, teaches girls about transportation safety and careers in fun ways using items such as remote control cars and a driving simulator.
Behind each activity is a lesson.
“We had them drive the course first just to get used to the simulator, then we had them do it again except while texting. Then we plotted the data to see how well they drove compared to the first time,” said Carrie Groseclose, a counselor and transportation engineer masters student at UT Knoxville. “We are just trying to enforce the idea that texting while driving is not a good thing and it is a safety issue.”
“I kept running into trees and stuff and I went off the road and I think if there were other drivers on the road I would have been a really big hazard to them,” Defreese said.
“It was much harder,” said Rachel Ryan, another participant. “I kept going off the road and it was just a big distraction.”
Girls also learned the lesson of wearing a seatbelt by meeting “The Convincer.”
“They said it was to convince you to wear a seatbelt,” participant Keylee Troutt said. “So you can feel the impact and that was just at 5 mph and it hurt really bad when you lifted up. So that was to make you think if you were going way faster how it would feel if you got in a car wreck.”
All weeklong, girls traveled to transportation hubs such as TDOT and the McGhee-Tyson Airport, where women in the field gave them a behind the scenes look.
“We’ve pulled females that are in the profession now to work with the girls and I think that shows them that, yes, it is possible to come into this field,” Flinchum said.
“I had no idea there were so many women,” said Ryan.”They are doing a great job. This is normally a man’s job.”
The girls came to the academy not knowing much about the interesting jobs in the world of transportation and the driving force women have in it — but now they know, and realize the world is open to them too.
“This has been a lot of fun. I have learned a lot. I am definitely going to consider some of the jobs they have showed me,” Ryan said.
The academy’s home base is the UT Conference Center Building, but activities will take the participants to the Life Development Center ropes course in Anderson County, Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) command center and traffic monitoring station in east Knoxville, the flight training school followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of McGhee Tyson Airport, a trip on a rail car, the UT Knoxville driving simulator lab and Neyland Stadium.
The academy is made possible through a partnership with Knox County Schools and a U.S. Department of Transportation grant named after Garrett Morgan, an African-American engineer who invented the first traffic signal and serves as the inspiration for the U.S. DOT program that encourages students to pursue careers in transportation.
The academy is organized and sponsored by the CTR and the Southeastern Transportation Center. UT Knoxville is also a sponsor. For more information on the academy, visit http://stc.utk.edu/transportationacademy/.
The CTR was created in 1970 to foster and facilitate interdisciplinary research, public service and outreach in the field of transportation at UT Knoxville. For more information about the CTR, visit http://ctr.utk.edu/.
C O N T A C T :
Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460, email@example.com)