At the West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), the first Research Experience for Teachers in Innovative Transportation Systems (ITS-RET) program is well underway. Ten middle, high school, and community college faculty participants are conducting multidisciplinary transportation research for six weeks at Montana State University this summer. The research topic areas focus on the unique challenges of rural transportation systems and developing solutions to transportation challenges through innovation. In addition to working with faculty and research mentors on research, the ITS-RET participants are translating their research experiences into classroom curricula.
On July 31 and August 1, the teachers were able to implement new teaching materials they developed during a two-day workshop held for middle and high school students. The classroom activities demonstrated what an excellent vehicle transportation is for integrated STEM learning. The young workshop participants were able to hone computational thinking skills during a programming challenge, test the strength of different materials, build and test crash attenuators, and use drones to survey a landscape before designing and building wildlife crossing structures. The classroom modules will be posted to the WRTWC website next month as a resource for other teachers. Teachers interested in participating in the RET program next summer can visit the Center website for additional information: http://wrtwc.org/resources/for-educators/
Last week, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced that a new aviation portal is now available to provide crucial information for pilots, airport operators, first responders and others who need real-time weather conditions throughout California. The Aviation Weather Information (AWI) portal links dozens of commonly used aviation weather websites into one location. Users can quickly and easily find information about current wind speed, temperature, visibility, air pressure and weather conditions at dozens of locations on a single, mapped based website.
Caltrans created the website with the assistance of a team from WTI, through the “Integration of Aviation AWOS and RWIS” project. In the news release about the website launch, Caltrans stated that it recognized the value of the site during the prototype stage, when it was used to gather weather data during an earthquake in 2014, a dam incident in 2017, and mudslides in 2018. Principal Investigator Doug Galarus, who has led the effort since its inception, added: “I am proud of the great job my team did on this project. Dan Richter, Leann Koon and numerous students worked on the Aviation project through the years to help get it to this point.”
Congratulations to the One-Stop Shop Traveler Information project, which was featured in the November/December 2017 issue of TR News Magazine, published by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board. Caltrans Senior Transportation Engineer Sean Campbell and WTI Principal Investigator Doug Galarus authored the article, entitled “The One-Stop Shop: Traveler Information Tool for Multistate Road Trips,” which was selected for a three-page feature in the “Research Pays Off” section of the magazine. The One-Stop Shop application is an umbrella website that can be used as a primary point of reference for trip planning over an 11-state region. It was created through an ongoing research collaboration that began in 2010 between the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Western States Rural Consortium (WSRTC), and the Western Transportation Institute. The article describes how the tool developed from a proof-of-concept project to an internet and mobile application that benefits a broad range of users, including long-distance travelers, local and state transportation agency personnel, emergency responders, and commercial vehicle operators. Additional information is available at the WSRTC website and the WTI website.
The national Motorcycle Advisory Council (MAC), which provides guidance and recommendations to the USDOT Federal Highway Administration, held its first meeting in December 2017. WTI Researcher Craig Shankwitz, who was invited to serve on the Council, gave a presentation on his research to develop a “smart license plate,” which could enable vehicle to vehicle communications, such as safety messages regarding the presence and position of motorcycles on the road. The MAC meeting was covered in detail in a feature article on the online blog Common Tread.
Two WTI staff members received advanced degrees at the Montana State University Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 6. Doug Galarus earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the College of Engineering, and Carla Littlereceived her Master’s in Higher Education from the College of Education, Health and Human Development.
Just in time for wintry holiday road trips over the river and through the woods, WTI has released a mobile version of the award-winning One-Stop Shop online traffic tool for travelers looking for up-to-the-minute information on weather and road conditions. Montana State University News Service released an extensive feature article on the project, which was highlighted on the MSU webpage last week, and has been picked up by several news organizations. You can read the article here, or try out the tool yourself at http://oss.weathershare.org/m
Congratulations to the development team, which has put in many long hours creating, expanding, and enhancing this tool since 2014, in partnership with the California Department of Transportation and the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium. This hard working team includes Doug Galarus, Dan Richter, Leann Koon from WTI’s Systems Engineering Development and Integration program, WTI alumni staff member David Veneziano, and Caltrans partners Ian Turnbull and Sean Campbell.