Grow Our Own Minority STEM Initiative: Partnering in Outreach

UIUC Project Information

NuRail Project IDNURail2013-UIUC-E05
Project TitleGrow Our Own Minority STEM Initiative: Partnering in Outreach
UniversityUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Principal InvestigatorTyler Dick
PI Contact Information
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)cost share project with Hanson
Total Project Cost$
Agency ID or Contract NumberDTRT12-G-UTC18 (Grant 1)
Start Date2013-06-01
End Date0000-00-00
Brief Description of Research ProjectThe railroad programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign (UIUC) and Michigan Technological University (MTU) are supporting efforts led by Hanson Professional Services to expose underrepresented groups to railway engineering and "grow our own" next generation of civil engineering leaders. To support higher‐speed passenger rail operations between Chicago and St. Louis, a long‐term effort to consolidate multiple rail corridors through Springfield, Illinois is underway. The approved alternative passes within blocks of a high school and impacts minority populations in the surrounding community. Through a unique partnership, local community leaders saw the proposed rail corridor as an opportunity to introduce local youth and minority populations to possible careers in related railway transportation, civil engineering and construction fields. The aim of the project is to help students from underrepresented groups connect the highly‐visible construction, operations, and maintenance activities in their community surrounding the new rail corridor to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics. With a tangible connection to real‐world applications of these subjects, it is hoped that more of these students will pursue careers in engineering, railroads or construction industry, growing the next generation of industry professionals.

The "Grow Our Own" Minority STEM Initiative is led by Hanson Professional Services, a civil engineering consulting firm headquartered in Springfield. Hanson is joined by the City of Springfield, Sangamon County, and the Illinois Department of Transportation in administering the initiative. Each group has pledged financial support to multiple programs including outreach to minorities through the NURail Center.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented)UIUC Engineering Open House Campus Visit
NURail and Hanson will partner to host approximately 30 minority students from Springfield high schools and middle schools attending the annual Engineering Open House on the UIUC campus. With bus transportation provided by Hanson, NURail graduate student Research Assistants will serve as tour guides to escort the Springfield students around the engineering campus. Visiting students will be able to participate in hands‐on activities demonstrating applications of STEM topics to various engineering fields. Among the hundreds of displays will be the award‐winning "Railway Extravaganza!" exhibit, consisting of a locomotive simulator and other interactive railway engineering activities, organized by the UIUC American Railway Engineering and Maintenance‐of‐Way Association (AREMA) Student Chapter and NURail‐supported students. While this AREMA exhibit will provide a direct link to the railway project in Springfield, other exhibits on robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, polymers and biotechnology are typically also popular with students.

MTU Summer Youth Program
Thanks to travel support from Hanson and scholarships from NURail, two minority students from Springfield will be able to experience a more intensive introduction to transportation and engineering concepts at the Summer Youth Program (SYP) in Rail and Intermodal Transportation hosted by Michigan Technological University. Over five days, students learn about transportation infrastructure and operations through hands on activities and industry field trips. This popular MTU program also allows students to meet peers with similar interests but from differing backgrounds all across the United States.
Photos photo 1;
photo 2;
photo 3;
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated)
Web Links
Project Website
Final ReportNURail2013-UIUC-E05-Final-Report.pdf