The National Academies

NCHRP 20-52(01) [Completed]

Implementing TRAC PAC2 -- A Hands-on Educational Program

  Project Data
Funds: $200,000
Research Agency: TransTech Management, Inc.
Principal Investigator: John Cameron
Effective Date: 2/24/2003
Completion Date: 3/1/2005

Background: The TRAC (TRAnsportation and Civil Engineering) program was created by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to interest middle and high school students, especially minorities and women, in the transportation profession and civil engineering. It is a hands-on educational program designed for use in math, physical science, and social science classes. By engaging students in solving real-world problems such as bridge design, land use planning, and traffic signal timing, TRAC introduces students to transportation concepts and inspires them to consider careers in transportation. The heart of the program is the TRAC PAC, a mobile mini-laboratory including equipment, tools, and curriculum guides to conduct more than three-dozen activities.

A current initiative to update TRAC PAC has proceeded in two phases. Phase I involved a research effort limited to collecting market data from end users about the usability and effectiveness of the current TRAC Product Line and then analyzing, evaluating, and summarizing the information in an objective report published under NCHRP Project 20-7(90). The second phase involves the research, development, testing, and delivery of a second generation TRAC PAC2 and is underway as NCHRP Project 20-52.

Project 20-52 will result in TRAC PAC2: a market-defined, user-friendly set of effective, fully integrated tools and technologies that incorporate the recommendations of the final report delivered under NCHRP Project 20-7(90). TRAC PAC2 will have eight modules: Bridge Builder, Design and Construction, Environmental, Maglev, Motion, Safety, SimCity/Planning, and Traffic Technology.

The original TRAC PAC has been in existence for approximately 10 years so there is concern that without an effort to market and promote the benefits and advantages of the new easy-to-use TRAC PAC2, it may be difficult for state DOTs to implement and administer the improved program. It may also become increasingly difficult to justify the cost and effort required to upgrade from the original TRAC PAC. As a result, some states and schools might continue to use the outdated TRAC PAC modules, and the ability of the TRAC program to accomplish its objectives and achieve its benefits would be compromised.

Objective: The objective of this study is to develop a set of marketing, promotional, and motivational tools to optimize the acceptance and implementation of the TRAC PAC2 program.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.

Tasks: Task 1. Identify categories of stakeholders that will have an influence on the acceptance and implementation of TRAC PAC2. It is expected that these categories will include teachers, counselors, superintendents, school board administrators, state DOT personnel, and others. Conduct a market assessment of TRAC PAC2 and how it can help meet the needs of these target groups. Develop strategies on how best to market and promote TRAC PAC2 to each group. Task 2. Develop recommendations on how teachers can deliver TRAC PAC2 in ways that will make the activities more interesting and appealing to the students, such as organizing contests or competitions among students. Task 3. Develop recommendations on the most effective strategies for recruiting, motivating, and retaining volunteer transportation professionals to participate in the program. Task 4. The connection between the TRAC PAC2 activities and state Standards of Learning is a major motivating factor in the acceptance of the program. Develop a matrix in database format that lists each TRAC PAC2 activity, with cross references to the relevant Standards of Learning for each of the 50 states. Task 5. In the traditional model for TRAC PAC, the program is administered at the state level. Once a state decides to participate, it purchases a TRAC membership, and distributes the programs to interested schools in that state. The DOT arranges for training and provides volunteer professionals for classroom activities. Investigate and assess the feasibility of alternative delivery mechanisms through other public sector and academic institutions. Task 6. Develop evaluation mechanisms to gauge the utility and effectiveness of TRAC PAC2. This effort should include developing and conducting a survey of students or recent high school graduates, comparing those with and without TRAC PAC2 exposure, to determine their relative level of awareness of, and interest in, transportation careers. Task 7. Assess the potential to market and distribute TRAC PAC2 through the private sector. Discuss how private sector distribution would affect the fee and revenue structure currently in place. Task 8. Submit a final report that documents the entire research effort and includes the results and recommendations of Tasks 1 through 7.

Status: Completed

Products: Final products have been delivered to AASHTO.

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