MSU Video Shows Students “Crushing it” in the Research Lab

Professor Mike Berry and his students had the opportunity to show off their efforts to develop and test ultra-high performance concrete in a Montana State University (MSU) feature article and video published on the MSU website last week.  The research stems from a collaboration between the Montana Department of Transportation, MSU College of Engineering, and WTI to formulate an affordable version of ultra-high performance concrete with materials available in Montana.  In the video, Berry also discusses how the research has allowed many students to gain valuable “hands-on” experience testing the strength and durability of construction materials in the lab.  The story also gained national attention last week when it was featured in the Daily Transportation Update of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).  The article, photos, and video are available on the MSU website, and more project information is available on the project’s webpage.

WTI Researchers Return from Busy Week at TRB

WTI researchers have returned from a busy week at the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  Attracting transportation leaders from around the country, the TRB Annual Meeting is the premier national transportation research gathering of the year.  Many WTI researchers are leaders and members of TRB committees, are selected to lead workshops, or invited to present their research.

TRB also provides an opportunity for graduate students to gain professional presentation skills, and network with transportation researcher and practitioners.  MSU doctoral student Amir Jamali presented two projects on pedestrian safety at a TRB poster session: “Pedestrian Crash Hotspot Identification Using Two-Step Floating Catchment Area Method and Machine Learning Tools,” and “Analysis of Pedestrian Injury Severity Levels for Intersection Crashes in Rural and Small Urban Areas.”  The posters were based on findings from a WTI project to develop a pedestrian safety planning tool, led by Dr. YiYi Wang.

Graduate Student Amir Jamali at TRB Poster Session

WTI Researchers had the opportunity to present research and collaborate with colleagues on topics that included traffic safety culture, crash reduction strategies, unpaved and low volume roads, design features of two-lane highways, transit accessibility, and workforce development:

    • Laura Fay presented “National Updates on Converting Distressed Paved Roads to Engineered Unpaved Roads” at a Lectern Session on Converting Distressed Paved Roads to Engineered Unpaved Roads.  As Host of the 2019 Low Volume Roads conference, she also presented conference updates to the Low Volume Roads Committee, and the Conference Planning subcommittee.
    • Ahmed Al-Kaisy presented on three of his current research topics.  He discussed “Traffic Operations on Rural Two-Lane Highways: A Review on Performance Measures and Indicators” at a session on Uninterrupted Flow; he presented an “Evaluation of Passing Lane Design Configurations on Two-Lane Highways” at a session on Performance-Based Geometric Design: Criteria for Horizontal Curves and Sight Distance; and he discussed an “Investigation of Passing-Lane Effective Length on Two-Lane Highways” at a session on Speed Effects of Highway Design Features.
Kelley Hildebrand-Hall, Laura Fay, Jaime Sullivan, Natalie Villwock-Witte, and Susan Gallagher
  • Nic Ward discussed his research on”ASafe System Approach to Reduce Wrong-Way Driving Crashes on Divided Highways by Applying Access Management and Traffic Safety Culture,” at a poster session on Network Considerations of Access Management.
  • As part of a lectern session on Paratransit, Safety, and Performance-Based Planning: Challenges and Opportunities for Small and Medium-Sized Areas, Jaime Sullivan gave a presentation entitled “On the Road to Zero, We Cannot Ignore Rural.”
  • Susan Gallagher gave presentations on two topics: transit accessibility and transportation workforce development.  She presented “Comparative Approaches to Fostering an Accessible Transportation Environment in the United States and Russia” at a lectern session on Accessible Transit Connectivity and Equity: Local to Global Approaches. She also presented “New Directions for Career Paths in the Maintenance and Operations Workforce” at the Maintenance and Operations Personnel Committee meeting. On the last day of the conference, Susan moderated a break out session during TRB Workshop 873: National Transportation Career Pathways Initiative Stakeholder Engagement: Scoping Transformative Technologies.  Susan’s work in transportation workforce development builds on the initiatives of the West Region Transportation Workforce Center, where she serves as Project Manager.
  • Natalie Villwock-Witte, David Kack, YiYi Wang, and Laura Fay
  • YiYi Wang participated in the ABJ80 Statistical Analysis Committee and judged a doctoral student research competition.

Summer Campers Set Sail with Montana Governor

Montana Governor Steve Bullock (center) with STC students at Gates of the Mountain
Montana Governor Steve Bullock (center) with STC students at Gates of the Mountain

At WTI’s annual Summer Transportation Camp (STC), student participants were treated to not one, but two special opportunities to meet and spend time with Montana Governor Steve Bullock.  During a morning tour of the Montana Department of Transportation in Helena, the Governor greeted the group and answered questions on transportation and other issues. Later that afternoon, the campers boarded a boat tour of the Gates of the Mountain canyon, and to their surprise, the “celebrity guest” captain for the day was Governor Bullock!

Each year, WTI hosts the Summer Transportation Camp, a two-week program for high school students to encourage pre-college interest in transportation careers and enhance their academic and professional development skills.  During the camp, students live on the Montana State University campus, and participate in a comprehensive academic program, field trips, a career and college counseling component, as well as team-building and sports and recreation activities.

STC student teams test the strength of the balsa wood bridges they constructed
STC student teams test the strength of the balsa wood bridges they constructed

This year, 19 students from across Montana attended the camp.  In addition to the exciting day in Helena with the Governor, other activities this year included a “CSI” themed class with a crash scene investigator from the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB), a coding project with MSU Computer Science graduate students, a tour of the Gallatin Field airport, and the always popular team competition to build and test balsa wood bridges.

Read more about the Summer Transportation Camp, and WTI’s other educational programs.  


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.

Production of a Documentary Film on Road Ecology: Division Street

WTI worked with Eric Bendick of the MSU Graduate Science and Natural History Film Program to create a film for national distribution that was entered in film festivals around the U.S. to increase public awareness about road ecology and its scientific solutions. It was selected for showing at eight film festivals. Film available at:

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.