For a group of Baltimore area high-school students, there is excitement in the air at Morgan State University’s Engineering Building. The young students chatter about the day’s activities as they listen to their professor, Safieh Lally give them instructions about the task at hand.


Students at Morgan State University’s Summer Transportation Institute on a field trip in Baltimore. (Photo by Jannah Johnson)

The high-school students are there for the Summer Transportation Institute, a 4 week program hosted by the National Transportation Institute that marks its 20th anniversary this year. Students in the program learn transportation concepts, go on STEM related field trips and attend classes.  All of the participants attend the program for free and receive a $250 stipend.

On this day in July, the first part of the student’s day consists of a lecture by Professor Lally about roundabouts, the concept they are currently researching. “My lectures give an overall understanding of what a STEM education is and sustainable transportation, and how it’s translated into design and system management for efficiency,” Lally says. “I treat them (the students) as college students…it is very similar to a college course.”

While Professor Lally teaches the room is silent and the group of students scribble notes furiously into their notebooks, giving her their undivided attention. “On a regular day we go SAT prep, we have a guest speaker, and then we go to lunch and work on another project,” Omobolade Odedoyi, a 10th grader at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, explains. “The program has taught me how to think critically and practically and helped me work on my communication skills.”

After the students finished their class together they don fluorescent orange traffic vests and venture to Light Street. Once there, they split up into groups of six and analyze traffic flow. “We’re trying to get traffic data to see what types of cars, buses, SUV’s, like what types of modes of transportation drive through,” says Odedoyi.

In 15 minute shifts the students recorded the traffic flow onto a worksheet that they will later use to interpret the data and determine whether or not the roundabout was sustainable and efficient. The students, who spend about an hour on the project, interact with onlookers and are frequently stopped and asked to explain the project. They happily oblige, excitedly explaining the field trip and the transportation program.

“This is our first trip so we’re all pretty excited,” says Kennedie Walker, a 12th grader at Parkville High. “Hopefully it (the program) helps me to decide what type of engineering I want to do…the daily activities that we do pertaining to transportation are pretty nice.”

Over the program’s twenty years, many participants have gone on to make engineering-related fields their careers.  “Some of our students go on and study the field of transportation, some enter post-secondary education in engineering fields and some go into other related fields like architecture,” says program coordinator Valerie Baker. “The program is funded through the Federal Highway administration and is focused on workforce development in the transportation field…we want our students to learn more about transportation, become involved in transportation, and gain an interest in pursuing a career…some of our students come to Morgan after completing the program and others attend other HBCU’s.”

Jawiyambe Thomas-James, an incoming freshman at Morgan State and graduate of the Summer Transportation Program, said that the four week program helped him immensely in deciding what to major in. “The program allowed me to look into career options that were available in the near future, said James. “It gave me the opportunity to get exposed to the transportation side of engineering and ultimately showed me how my current major, Civil Engineering, could tie into the transportation sector.”