STEM Outreach At VDOT

Why VDOT Does K-12 Outreach

Our nation is experiencing a shortage of professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

Because the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) relies on these skills, we are dedicated to helping build the next generation of STEM problem-solvers.

To accomplish this, VDOT is offering schools two programs through the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

One is the TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) Program, composed of hands-on educational modules designed for integration into science, math and social science classes in middle and high schools.

The TRAC program engages high school and middle school students in solving real-world problems, such as designing bridges, investigating crash forces, or analyzing the environmental and economic effects of building a highway.

The other program is RIDES (Roadways into Developing Elementary Students). This was developed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and involves activities and lesson geared toward K-8 students.

Both are free to schools. VDOT volunteers are also available to speak about their careers in transportation and work with the students using the modules and lessons in the classrooms.

Each teacher can decide which modules / lessons fit into their curriculum.

By bringing transportation professionals to the classroom, TRAC connects kids to the work world and inspires them to consider careers in transportation and civil engineering.


Upcoming TRAC Training

  • Aug. 20 – 21, 2018, MathScience Innovation Center, 2401 Hartman St, Richmond, Virginia, 23223, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Open to any middle or high school teacher in Virginia, as space allows)
  • Registration form
  • Contact, 804-328-3047

TRAC Modules

Environmental engineering: Covers  erosion, sedimentation and filtration from the perspective of the highway engineer. Students investigate air pollution, noise, water quality and habitat loss as parts of highway planning and development.

Roadway design and construction: Showcases disciplines (including math, social studies and technology) involved in taking a road from design to construction.

Traffic engineering: Covers basic linear motion, braking distance and friction and programming logic for traffic systems. Concepts are introduced independently and then pulled together in experimental demonstrations, hands-on projects and computer-based simulations.

Bridge design: Addresses comprehensive aspects of design and building bridge structures. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and National Science Teacher Association standards are addressed through hands‐on projects and computer‐based simulations. Special thanks to Bentley for their donation of Microstation PowerDraft V8i, which provides students the opportunity to learn software that is used by engineering firms worldwide.

Motion and the transportation engineer: Covers momentum and energy conservation, normally taught in high school physics courses or intermediate school physical science courses. Include automobile collision analysis and roadside crash barrier design. Specific relationships to National Science Education Standards pertaining to momentum, energy, Newton’s laws of motion and scientific inquiry skills are outlined.

Highway safety: Students gain an understanding of traffic problem identification based on data analysis and seek solutions using limited funds. Students investigate safety factors associated with curve design and utilize a mathematical approach to designing safe curves. Computer-assisted design software is used to apply principles investigated.


  • A collection of K‐8 lessons that align with National Standards for math and science. There are resources for each hands-on lesson. Teachers receive a large storage trunk with supplies needed to complete the activities.
  • RIDES participants in Louisiana 

Bridge Building

  • For the last two years, VDOT has hosted a regional bridge building competition for middle and high school students. Teams design, build, and present their bridges. Supplies are provided. Pre-registration is required. The competition is open to any group of middle or high school aged students in Virginia. Scouting groups, homeschool groups, and teams from private schools are encouraged to participate.
  • Rules and registration details:

Note: The AASHTO national bridge competition rules are different from the VDOT rules. All teams are encourages to try for the national competition which requires some additional requirements.

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Additional Resources

Education and Training

Technology in Transportation


Contact Angela Parsley, STEM Coordinator to register or for more information: 804-328-3047 or


Page last modified: June 8, 2018