The CUTC New Initiatives Program enables CUTC members to propose one-time or ongoing activities that advance the goals of the organization. Proposals can be submitted for activities that bring benefit to CUTC members through technology transfer, workforce development, and synthesis-type research.
Three initiatives were chosen for 2022:
Human-Robot Interactions in Transportation
This project seeks to create hands‐on experiences of the fundamental aspects of robotics, controls, and haptics at the center of the future of transportation – shared autonomy between humans and robotic systems. Specifically, this project will support the creation of low‐cost hardware for implementation in outreach activities (e.g., after school activities such as robotics club) at middle and high schools, with a focus on rural schools and underrepresented groups that do not typically have robust STEM programs. A key missing aspect of current student learning experiences in and outside of the classroom is in hands‐on experiences of dynamic systems. Students study key mathematical concepts integral to dynamic systems, such as trigonometric (e.g., sinusoidal) and exponential functions on paper, but do not get to see or feel these functions. However, with the proposed haptic equipment, students will be able to ‘get a feel’ for these fundamental concepts and be motivated for future studies and careers in STEM.
The fundamental concept behind the haptic paddle is Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle , which suggests that hands‐on experiences are important for learning fundamental concepts about mathematics and dynamics. Current haptic (touchable) displays and robots costs thousands of dollars and are delicate equipment. To address this need, groups at several universities have developed devices broadly categorized as haptic paddles . Previous work by Dr. Rose with haptic paddles [3‐5] has shown that they are ideal platforms for conveying to students the underlying principles that are taught in undergraduate system dynamics classes, and that the haptic paddle researchers are part of a vibrant, international community engaging students of all ages (K‐16) . Further, the low cost and robust nature of the paddle not only supports but encourages exploration that is discouraged on expensive equipment. Students are allowed to ‘move fast and break things’ to better understand the STEM concepts at hand. Despite their simple construction, haptic paddles possess nonlinear dynamics, integrated (multidomain) system dynamics, adaptability to basic control theory, graphic programming, and real‐time hardware implementation. In all these classes, the haptic paddle curriculum will present fundamentals of dynamic systems and human‐robot interaction at the heart of the future of transportation.
A Comprehensive Workforce Development Program to Advance Leadership in Critical Transportation Technologies
On March 31, 2021, President Joe Biden unveiled the second part of his “Build Back Better” agenda – the American Jobs Plan. The American Jobs Plan is an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China. Yet, the American Jobs Plan indicated that “barriers to careers in high innovation sectors remain significant. We must do more to improve access to the higher wage sectors of our economy.” Other parts of the American Jobs Plan highlighted electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, climate resilience, and sustainability as new technologies “critical to both our future economic competitiveness and our national security.” As such, this project proposes a comprehensive workforce development program to educate transportation professionals on these emerging topics from a transportation engineering perspective overcoming the barriers highlighted in the American Jobs Plan. The proposed program will encompass three key activities that include (i) forming a new student chapter; (ii) organizing a workforce development summit; and (iii) providing internships to ensure that the project’s objectives are achieved.
Exploring Career Paths in Transportation: Engaging with the Grand Challenges of our Era
The proposed Exploring Career Paths in Transportation: Engaging with the Grand Challenges of our Era campaign is a semester-long seminar class for undergraduate students that will be piloted at the University of Florida and made available online to universities nationwide and the broader public. The campaign, based on the principles of the Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown & Hackett, 1994), is designed to encourage more young adults to choose transportation for their career path.
The campaign will introduce students to the transportation sector through 16 seminars held online or in-person (and recorded) focused on career paths and career skills. Each week a professional will speak with students about a different field of transportation and the career paths within it. Career path topics that may be featured include transportation and traffic engineering, autonomous technology, materials engineering, computer science, app/software development, planning, occupational therapy, sustainability, infrastructure, climate change, the environment (air quality, wildlife passages, noise impacts) and more. Speakers will be invited from University Transportation Centers (UTCs), public and private agencies, and other transportation organizations from around the country. Participants will also learn about career skills needed to be successful in transportation. Topics may include public communication (verbal and written), facilitation, networking, how to find a mentor, etc.
In addition to scheduled seminar presentations and discussions, students will complete specific actions that will facilitate personal exploration of transportation careers such as interviewing a professional, reviewing job descriptions, learning about professional organizations, developing a presentation on a career, conducting informational interviews, or researching internship opportunities. A public companion website will be developed that will include resources and links relevant to transportation career paths. The website will be shared broadly with the UTC community and public.