The National Academies

NCHRP 20-52 [Completed]

TRAC PAC2 -- A Hands-on Educational Program

  Project Data
Funds: $350,094
Research Agency: Commonwealth of Virginia, Transportation Research Council
Principal Investigator: John Miller
Effective Date: 5/30/2000
Completion Date: 5/29/2002

Background: The TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) program was created by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to interest 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 science, math, and social science classes. By engaging students in solving real-world problems such as urban planning or bridge design, TRAC connects students to the work world of transportation and inspires them to consider careers in transportation.

TRAC sends volunteers into high school and junior high school classrooms that are pre-equipped with the TRAC PAC, a highly popular curriculum tool used by hundreds of teachers around the United States and abroad. The TRAC PAC is the heart of the program; it is a mobile mini-laboratory, including a TRAC computer and a box containing the equipment, tools, and curriculum guides to conduct over three dozen activities. The computer uses various software and electronic measuring devices (e.g., sound probes, motion sensors, and force detectors), while the box contains other, nonelectric supplies needed for classroom activities (e.g., measuring instruments, magnetic strips, lengths of magnetic track, and foam blocks).

Because TRAC is using electronic equipment and other computer hardware and software technology that is now 4 to 5 years old, there has been a perceived degradation of the attractiveness, overall effectiveness, and frequency of use of the product in the classroom. AASHTO believes that new technologies such as the Internet and CD ROM can be integrated into the next generation of hands-on materials (in combination with other product line innovations) to dramatically increase the usefulness and frequency of use of the program in the classroom.

In this regard, AASHTO's Special Committee on TRAC established a two-phase program to produce prototype tools that would improve TRAC PAC, using new high-tech tools and new technologies to present a positive image about the transportation profession to targeted students.

Phase I involved a research effort [NCHRP 20-7(90)] 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.

This project statement describes Phase II, which will address the Phase 1 recommendations through research, development, testing, and delivery of a second generation TRAC PAC (TRAC PAC2).

Objective: The objective of this project is to develop 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 shall be based on the National Science Education Standards for middle schools and high schools, and it shall highlight real-world problems relevant to transportation and hands-on development of skills required in transportation careers. Modules must be user-friendly, activity-based, and practical. A computer will not be provided in TRAC PAC2, but the package must be compatible with standard personal computers and be suitable for cross-platform network environments. It must require minimal training for effective use, use standard off-the-shelf software, be suitable for cooperative learning in a constructivist environment, and be able to accommodate simultaneous use by a 30-student class. Each module should include instructions and suggestions for teachers and volunteers, including an estimate of time requirements and evaluation strategies. Each module shall function as a standalone unit as well as be an integral component of TRAC PAC2. Any software or products specially developed for TRAC PAC2 will be warranted.

Possible media may include videotape, CD-ROM, site-licensable software, a web page, and inexpensive, easily available materials. Manuals must identify which of the National Science and Education Standards are addressed in each module and must contain instruments for assessing student achievement. All manuals and documentation must be provided in hard copy and in electronic format suitable for delivery via the World Wide Web. TRAC PAC2 should be designed to facilitate future enhancements and updates. The NCHRP intends to make all products and electronic files developed in this project the exclusive property of the AASHTO.

Tasks: Accomplishment of the project objective will require at minimum the following tasks: (1) Based on contemporary understandings of learning and media use and on the recommendations of NCHRP Project 20-7(90), develop a preliminary model/framework that outlines the content, structure, and delivery of TRAC PAC2. (2) Consistent with the recommendations of NCHRP Project 20-7(90), develop a plan to update, enhance, and field test the concepts contained in the following five existing modules: Motion, Sound, Maglev, SimCity, and Bridge Builder. (3) Develop plans for designing and field testing a minimum of four proposed new modules, at least one from each of the categories listed in the recommendations on pages 37-39 of the NCHRP Project 20-7(90) final report. The new modules shall address standards of learning not addressed in the existing modules. (4) Deliver an interim report within 4 months of contract initiation documenting the results of Tasks 1, 2, and 3 and detailing plans for completion of the remaining project tasks, including development of TRAC PAC2. Provide estimates of unit costs to reproduce TRAC PAC2 in its entirety and as individual modules. (5) Upon approval of the interim report, develop TRAC PAC2 prototypes of the five enhanced modules (Task 2) and new modules (Task 3). (6) Field-test the usability of the new and enhanced prototype materials with teachers and students currently using the program. Modify modules based on results of field tests, and conduct further field testing as necessary. (7) Complete the TRAC PAC2 package, and provide guidance for implementation and delivery of TRAC PAC2 by AASHTO to participants in the TRAC program. (8) Submit a final report that includes (a) an easy-to-read description (including charts) of the work that was carried out in this project, including the research and development plan and all methodologies and decision making; (b) manuals and instructional materials for TRAC PAC2 and the individual modules; and (c) five working copies of TRAC PAC2 and the standalone modules. The final TRAC PAC2 deliverable should be in a format ready for production and distribution by AASHTO.

Status: The research and product development phase is completed. The modules and activities have been delivered to AASHTO for integration with the TRAC program. The draft final report has been reviewed and approved.

Product Availability: The final report is available on request and is posted on the TRB website as Web Document 49.

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