Education efforts promote STEM to underrepresented groups
The Roadway Safety Institute works to increase participation by groups currently underrepresented in STEM fields, which includes women. In early 2016, the Institute awarded travel scholarships for two students to attend the WTS Central Region Conference held in Indianapolis February 19–20, 2016. Nazanin Abbaszadeh Banaeiyan of the University of Minnesota Duluth and Fatemeh Baratian Ghorghi of Auburn University each received $1500 toward their travel expenses.
“It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the transportation industry, especially the advancement of women, and to learn from senior leaders on the most recent transportation topics,” Ghorghi says. She added that the networking opportunities were also highly valuable. The other women attending, she says, “were eager to help and answer any questions.”
Banaeiyan says that being the only female in her work environment and a female in the field of engineering can be stressful, but through WTS and its regional conference, she finds the motivation she needs by learning about other successful women in the transportation field, she says.
On March 8, Institute staff taught sessions on basic traffic principles and pedestrian safety to 60 eighth-grade students from Woodbury, MN. The students visited the University of Minnesota as part of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, which promotes college and STEM careers for first-generation college students. RSI researcher Chen-Fu Liao gave students an introduction to traffic engineering, including a hands-on experience managing traffic flow using the online game Gridlock Buster. The pedestrian safety curriculum focused on retroreflectivity, which is also the focus of our museum exhibit in development at The Works.