They're in Middle and High School Now, But Just Wait
Zishan Vahora, a Perry Hall Middle School student, illustrates just how summer programs contribute to workforce development.
He signed up for the Middle School Summer Transportation Initiative (MSSTI) to have fun. But Zishan, who hopes to be a software engineer one day, became interested in the difference between types of bridges, especially suspension bridges and cable bridges.
"I kind of like it," he says.
Pharaoh Myers, a rising eighth-grader at Kippujima Village, was already interested in transportation and eagerly embraced learning the terminology so that he could talk to people in the field.
"It's like a different way of speaking," he said.
MSSTI, in its second year, is patterned after the Summer Transportation Institute (STI), a free program for high school students now in its 22nd year. MSSTI hosted 15 students. Both programs are sponsored by Morgan State University's National Transportation Center and Urban Mobility & Equity Center with funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration.
Twenty students took part in STI this year, and the theme was aviation. Field trips included aviation museums, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which has a flight simulator, and the University of Maryland, which has a wind tunnel.
During their final presentations, several students said their experiences prompted them to change their career focus to aviation.
Sa' Raye Wynder-Burs, a senior at Woodbridge High School in Virginia, was thinking of being an editorial assistant and majoring in literature, "but now I've been researching being an aviation technical writer, writing instructions for the planes," she said. "I have a lot more to think about before I came here."
Ike Nwadeyi, a 10th-grader at Parkville High School, was interested in being a defense attorney but is now thinking about aeronautical engineering.
Fellow Parkville student Jalen Wright wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do, but after seeing the wind tunnel, he wants to attend the University of Maryland and major in aerospace engineering.
"One thing this program has taught me is if you want something, you have to work hard at it," he said.
Gerald Akwuole, also from Parkville, wants to be a nuclear physicist. He drew a laugh during a presentation when he admitted, "I did not look at the instructions carefully when constructing my Delta Dart plane, causing my plant to not operate as I wanted it to. I need to read the instructions more carefully, especially if I go into nuclear physics because if I don't - boom."
Teachers get into the fun. The Teacher Transportation Institute (TTI), a two-week free program, helps teachers understand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts in the context of transportation by studying and then creating roundabouts.
"I had no idea there were that many careers in transportation," said Robert Henderson, who teaches computer technology at Digital Harbor High School.
Vernal Harrell, who teaches at Eager Street Academy, thinks creating a roundabout and using an engineering ruler and measurements will reinforce geometry and algebra for her students.
"This is another way they're not always in the book," she says. "They have a hands-on activity. She noted that the texture of the materials used to build the roundabout, such as grass and cars, would work well for visually impaired students.
Alfred Lloyd, who teaches A+ certification at Digital Harbor High School, says A+part of networking "and in networking you have a binary - you have to use a different scale and unit, and it's the same thing with the engineering ruler." He also notes that connected vehicles use wireless technology "and that falls right in with that A+."
Robert Henderson, who teaches computer technology at Digital Harbor High School, said, "I had no idea there were that many careers in transportation."
All three programs concluded with a banquet on July 27, 2018, and Ricky D. Smith Sr., the executive director of the Maryland Department of Transportation Aviation Administration, was the keynote speaker.
Smith's life story was fascinating; he grew up in Reservoir Hill on Whitelock Street, and a basketball scholarship took him to Virginia Union in Richmond. But when his coach wanted him to focus solely on basketball and major in phys ed, Smith, who dreamed of being an accountant, returned home and struggled to attend Howard University. One semester he was even homeless but he perservered. One of his biggest challenges, though, was adapting to the wider world, and it started when he went to work at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"Whitelock Street, Virginia Union, Howard --everybody looked like me," Smith said. "I went to the airport and nobody looked like me. It was culture shock. I had to figure out how to adapt. You will find yourselves in situations where you have to adapt. I didn't lose myself -- I'm still from Whitelock Street, but some of those people who didn't look like me saw something in me ... that was my path. Each one of us has our own path. It's not your friend's path, it's not your buddy's path, it's not Michael Jordan's path -- it's your own path."
Dr. Andrew Farkas, the director of both the National Transportation Center and the Urban Mobility & Equity Center, said, "This was the first year that we've run all three programs, which meant more work for us, but I think we've influenced more people to be engaged in transportation. We hope our students and the students impacted by the teachers in our program will consider a career in transportation, but at least they will be more informed about all that transportation does for the economy and this region."