ASU Summer Transportation Institute introduces students to engineering

According to one dictionary’s definition, engineering is “the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences, as physics or chemistry, as in the construction of engines, bridges, buildings, mines, ships and chemical plants.”

Sure, it’s an accurate description, but do you get any real sense of what an engineer does from reading that?

We didn’t think so.

To learn about engineering, it helps to hear firsthand from the men and women who work in the field.

Recently, a group of high school students from around the state got to do just that…

It was all part of ASU’s Summer Transportation Institute – a program designed to teach future engineers what it takes to make traffic flow in a safe and effective way.

The students traveled across Arizona during the three-week program and experienced everything from bridge-building basics to lessons in space travel and water transportation. They learned on-site at several locations, including the Hoover Dam and ADOT’s Deck Park Tunnel (see video above). At ADOT, the students also learned about engineering survey and photogrammetry, traffic engineering and equipment services.

It’s this direct approach to learning that instructor Dr. Jan Snyder says gets the kids engaged and fired up for a future career in engineering.

“You hear about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) … but until recently, the E in STEM was silent,” Dr. Snyder said. “It has become obvious to many of us that really, engineering provides an opportunity to bring the other three aspects of STEM together in a very interesting, enjoyable way.”

The students certainly seemed to agree…

Stefin Nelson, a junior at Kingman High School, said he’s always been interested in engineering and decided to apply for the institute after hearing about it from his biology teacher.

“I didn’t know there were so many different types of engineers,” Nelson said of what he’s learned from the experience.

Liliana Tapia, a senior at Kofa High School, is interested in civil and aeronautical engineering and, like Nelson and many of the other students, said she was surprised to see the numerous options available in engineering.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Tapia said of the summer institute. “It’s cool to see how many jobs are created by this certain field.”

Aaron Witt, an Arcadia High School senior, already knows what he wants to do after college … he is looking toward a career in road building.

“I’ve really enjoyed it because we’ve gone through so many aspects of engineering. I want to get paid to play in the dirt and I wasn’t sure that was possible,” said Witt, adding that the summer transportation institute showed him it is possible.