Education and Outreach

University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS)    Education and Outreach

As part of the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS) commitment to student education and community outreach, the UTCRS faculty and staff offers year-around and summer STEM education programs in support for teachers and students alike.

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is an annual program which selects undergraduate engineering students to participate in a research-intensive ten-week program. Participants selected for this program work closely with faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduate mentors on selected research projects; students also have the opportunity to make short presentations to mentoring faculty and peers during program meetings. At the end of the program participants are required to create a formal research poster presentation of their results and of their experience at the end of the program, and submit a written, final report describing the results of their research.

Research Experience for Teachers (RET)

The UTCRS will provide K-12 teachers the opportunity to participate in a research-intensive five-week program. Selected applicants for this program will work closely with faculty, students, and staff on current educational research projects, prepare professional presentations, participate in workforce development workshops, and submit a written, final report describing the results of their research. This experience will also serve as professional development in the field of railway safety, with the ultimate goal of raising awareness about careers in transportation among K-12 students. Teachers participating in this program are expected to bring the knowledge they gained to their classrooms in any form of class activity they deem appropriate and beneficial for their students.

Railway Safety Summer Camps (K-12)

The UTCRS runs the biggest Transportation-related Summer Camps in the nation, gathering close to 1,000 students each year.

Summer 2014: the camps served 700 students (300 elementary, 300 middle school, and 100 high school students) from over 130 schools representing 26 school districts in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV).

Summer 2015: the camps served 1000 students (450 elementary, 425 middle school, and 125 high school), again distributed among RGV school districts.

Summer 2016: the camps served 1300 students (577 elementary, 525 middle school, 198 high school), among RGV school districts. 

These Summer Camps aim to increase awareness of careers in transportation engineering for students in 3rd through 12th grades. The camp promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, with a focus on railway safety. At this time, Summer Camps are only available for students from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas area Independent School Districts (ISDs). Students taking part in the  UTCRS Railway Safety Summer Camps are selected to participate by Rio Grande Valley ISDs. Each School District select participating students according to their independent criteria.

Educator Resources

As part of the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS) commitment to student education and community outreach, the UTCRS faculty and staff aided by teachers participating in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program developed K-12 curricula with the goal of introducing students to STEM concepts through transportation engineering applications with emphasis on railway safety. The UTCRS developed curricula utilize LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT 2.0, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3, and MagLev educational toolkits to expose students to STEM and transportation technologies through programming, engineering design, teamwork, logic, problem solving, and real-life applications in a challenging yet exciting way.

The UTCRS K-12 curricula are available for teachers, educators, and program coordinators to borrow and implement at their own institutions.

Community Outreach

The community outreach activities have been one of the main highlights of the UTCRS. The community has embraced the UTCRS and has come to depend on the K-12 STEM summer camps and teacher professional development workshops focused on transportation engineering.