MSU Students take Presentation Awards at I-HEEP Conference

The Highway Engineering Exchange Program (HEEP) is an international organization that promotes advances in transportation engineering through the exchange of knowledge and information technology. The 2016 International HEEP Conference was held September 11-15 in Helena, Montana.

HEEP offers a student competition with cash prizes as part of its Educator Student Participation Program (ESP). Maia Grudzien, an MSU undergraduate in Civil Engineering mentored by Computer Science faculty member Brittany Fasy, took home the top student prize of $1,000 for her presentation on “Safer Roads Tomorrow through Analyzing Today’s Accidents.” Sam Micka, a PhD student in Computer Science mentored by faculty advisor Brendan Mumey, received the second place award of $750 for his presentation on “Efficient Monitor Placement for Multipath Traffic Flows.”

Student presenters provide a 20 minute presentation before the general meeting audience and a judging panel during the IHEEP annual conference. Presenters are evaluated based on their understanding of the subject, the strength of their oral presentations, effective use of presentation aids, professional appearance and demeanor, and their interactions with the audience. Congratulations to our two MSU award winners and their faculty mentors!

Workforce Center Co-sponsors STEM Event

The West Region Transportation Workforce Center, which is housed at WTI, partnered with the Montana Girls STEM Collaborative to co-sponsor and co-organize a Girls STEM Collaboration Forum held at MSU on Thursday, May 19. WTI’s Susan Gallagher presented at the forum, which brought together over 50 formal and informal STEM educators, including representatives from museums, science centers, 4-H, libraries, and afterschool programs. The forum was focused on improving transportation industry collaborations with informal educators and sharing resources to build the STEM talent pipeline. Activities included a girls panel, an industry panel, networking and collaboration opportunities, and presentations and sharing of free transportation and other STEM outreach content and materials. Industry representatives from MDT, FHWA, KLJ, Sanderson Stewart, and NTSB participated in the panel discussion, which focused on what industry representatives can offer to help build out-of-school STEM programming, industry experiences with implementing successful outreach efforts, and what barriers exist or additional resources are needed to build productive education/industry collaborations.

WTI to work with City of Bozeman

WTI will be working with the City of Bozeman on the development of a Travel Demand Forecast Model (TDM) as the City has just begun working on an update to their Transportation Master Plan (TMP). WTI will develop a TDM that the City of Bozeman can utilize to more frequently evaluate transportation investments and will parallel the work being done for the City by Robert Peccia and Associates and MDT. The goal is to develop a model and methodology that will enable the city to incorporate the use of a TDM into development review, as well as annual capital planning for transportation. This project with the City of Bozeman complements other work that Pat McGowen and Kerry Pederson (undergraduate researcher working on livability metrics in TDM) are conducting.

The City of Bozeman is looking for input on the Transportation Plan and has an interactive map that allows the public to identify locations, corridors, or connections of importance to them for consideration in planning the transportation system in Bozeman. Visit and click on the Public Engagement button to provide your input.

Girl Scouts Engineering Day

(Article from WTI eNews, April 2011)

Approximately one hundred Girl Scouts from Bozeman and surrounding communities visited MSU on Saturday, February 26 to explore engineering careers and activities. The event, sponsored by the Western Transportation Institute, was held to commemorate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day during National Engineering Week. The girls (fourth through sixth graders) had the opportunity to interact with MSU engineering students during fifteen minute hands-on activities that introduced them to Civil, Electrical, Industrial, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering. During the two-hour event, the girls explored ergonomics, programmed robots, ate ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, designed the layout for an oil pipeline through tundra, and built soil retaining walls. They also completed a team problem-solving task. Engineering student chapter organizations hosted the activities representing the various engineering disciplines. WTI, the College of Engineering, and Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming jointly coordinated the event. Participants traveled from Bozeman, Pony, Livingston, Belgrade, Whitehall, Norris, and Harrison to attend the popular event.

Safe Passages Research Experience for Undergraduates

(Article from WTI eNews, April 2011)

The Western Transportation Institute completed the final year of its three-year NSF-funded Safe Passages Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program this summer. The goal of the program was to address the nation’s need for innovative solutions to issues arising at the interface between the nation’s rural transportation infrastructure and the natural environment. The intent of the REU was to integrate a variety of strategies in addressing problems in the program’s three research focus areas: 1) water and fish passage; 2) wildlife movement and habitat connectivity; and 3) public safety and mobility. Student projects utilized the U.S. Highway 191 travel corridor between Bozeman and West Yellowstone, Montana. REU research conducted on this busy two-lane roadway, which cuts through a major riparian corridor, important wildlife habitat, and a portion of Yellowstone National Park, was designed to provide a model for developing integrated transportation solutions to address both public safety and environmental concerns on rural highways nationwide. Each year, eight participants were selected from colleges and universities nationwide for the ten week summer research program.

Recruitment of underrepresented groups in engineering, specifically women and Native American students, was a primary program goal. Diversity recruitment efforts were quite successful. Over the course of the three year REU program, 21% of the twenty-four participants were from underrepresented ethnic/racial groups (including Native American), 8% were Native American, and 63% were female. Participants also represented a wide range of academic majors (13 total) and home institutions (21 total).

The program strove to provide research experiences to students who have limited access to research at their home institutions. Recruitment efforts targeted non-research intensive two-year and four-year colleges to achieve this goal. One-third of participants in the program came from home institutions that do not grant degrees beyond a Master’s. Four of the participants came from institutions offering Bachelor’s degrees only.

Research projects were selected from each of the three thematic research focus areas: water and fish passage (5 projects); wildlife movement and habitat connectivity (3 projects); and public safety and mobility (5 projects). An interdisciplinary team of two students worked on each project. Four of the twelve REU projects have resulted in successful submissions to professional conferences or publications.

The successful REU program provided valuable research experience to a diverse group of twenty-four undergraduate students, which will impact their problem-solving skills and their career and academic choices after graduation. In the words of one of the 2010 participants:

“This summer was the best summer of my life. I learned so much, gained so many new skills, and experienced so many new things. It truly has been life changing.”

WTI will seek additional support from NSF to continue offering undergraduate research opportunities focused on safe and sustainable transportation in rural environments.

Colter Roskos presents at National Science Foundation conference

Civil Engineering graduate research assistant Colter Roskos presented a poster at the National Science Foundation’s Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Division Grantees Conference, which was held January 3-7, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Colter’s paper on “Building Green: Development and Evaluation of the Design Properties of an Environmentally Friendly Concrete” will also be published in the conference proceedings.

Sommer Roefaro presents at TRB

Sommer Roefaro, WTI Graduate Fellow and Master’s Candidate in Civil Engineering, presented Effectiveness of Signal Control at Channelized Right Turning Lanes: An Empirical Study during a poster session at the Transportation Research Board 2011 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Jessica Mueller successfully defends thesis, “Safety Evaluation of a Medic’s Work Environment during Rural Emergency Response.”

Jessica Mueller successfully defended her thesis “Safety Evaluation of a Medic’s Work Environment during Rural Emergency Response,” completing all requirements for her Masters degree in Industrial Engineering. The naturalistic data collected in her study allowed researchers to perform analysis in a rural emergency driving environment to identify contributing factors to attending medic behavior, severity of biomechanical forces experienced in the driver and patient compartment, and an evaluation of emergency medical response safety culture. Based upon research findings, the project includes development of a series of environmental, ergonomic, policy, or training recommendations to mitigate circumstances that cause potentially unsafe operations in the driver’s and patient’s compartment of the ambulance. This study used naturalistic data and video, survey responses, focus groups, and agency patient care records to analyze the rural medics’ working environment during emergency patient transportation. Accelerometer data was analyzed for 102 separate emergency transports to provide descriptive statistics relevant to whole-body vibration experienced by the medics during patient care. Five years of patient care records were analyzed to identify specific patient illnesses and medical procedures associated with traveling in emergency response mode. Restraint compliance rates were collected for both self-reported (21.5% restrained) and observed (2.6% restrained) data collection methods. Focus groups identified factors influencing medics’ choice to be unrestrained, characterized by a reduced ability to provide patient care, the belief that restraint devices will cause harm to the medics, and the belief that the restraint devices are ineffective in a crash situation. Finally, reach analysis was conducted to highlight the procedures and equipment retrieval which require the medics to assume positions resulting in awkward and unstable postures during transport. The results of this study will add to the growing body of knowledge surrounding the behaviors of EMS workers in a real work setting, and will aid in understanding the complexities of EMS safety culture. Jessica was a recipient of the WTI Graduate Transportation Award and was selected as the 2009 UTC Student of the Year.