(May 10, 2019) – The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is proud to launch the Roadways in Developing Elementary Students (RIDES) program, which inspires early STEM learning in grade schools.  At the same time, MDOT SHA announced that three Maryland Transportation and Civil Engineering (TRAC) teams are finalists in the the National TRAC Bridge Challenge sponsored by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO).  AASHTO selects only 18 teams nationwide as finalists to compete. This year, Maryland will have a competitor for each of three grade divisions: Grade 7-8, Grade 9-10 and Grade 11-12. The 2019 competition will be held May 20 – 22, 2019 in Park City, Utah.

Today, MDOT SHA Deputy Administrator Jason Ridgway, PE; Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation (CLF) leaders including Spear Lancaster, CLF Co-Founder, Board Member & Honorary President; Hakki Karaman, CLF CEO; Mark Sutherland, CLF Community Partnerships Director as well as teachers, staff, parents and students in the RIDES launch and TRAC Bridge Challenge recognition ceremony.

RIDES is a hands-on program developed by AASHTO. It allows students to use their creativity in math and science activities and apply them to real-world transportation and civil engineering concepts. Students and teachers demonstrated how RIDES fosters creative learning by showcasing their projects.

“We are excited about the opportunity to establish this unique educational partnership with Maryland schools and proud to send three of our talented Maryland teams to the national AASHTO bridge competition,” said MDOT SHA Deputy Administrator Jason Ridgway. “These programs are just one example of how we are serving Marylanders and supporting the next generation of engineers and transportation professionals.”

The bridge challenge competition is part of a larger TRAC designed to promote an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The program enhances math and science instruction and introduces students to engineering through hands-on, real-world applications. The competition is open to students in grades seven through 12 within the participating TRAC states. Aside from Maryland, this year’s TRAC Bridge Builder Competition includes finalists from Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, California and Louisiana.

“As a state, we've only had one team go to nationals, ever, just last year. Now, to send a team to nationals for the second year in a row, let alone three teams, it’s simply astounding. Each student, parent, teacher and coach involved deserves applause,” said Community Partnerships Director of Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, Mark Sutherland.

The Maryland finalist teams include:

Total Bridge Domination; Sulayman Kahn, Marlin and Marvin Nwachukwu from Chesapeake Math and IT North Middle School.

Level 3; Ashley Tchokote, Oshotse Itsuokor and Ayodeji (Pamela) Awobajo from Chesapeake Math and IT North High School.

Chesapeake Science Point Bridge Queens; Mia Elgharbawi, Isabella Woel-Popovich, Sarah Vo from Chesapeake Science Point.

Student teams participating in the bridge challenge sign up in November and have until February to complete their bridge design projects.  The bridges are constructed from balsa wood and teams must adhere to very specific guidelines and submit a detailed report to the AASHTO judges. Students work on their projects during the school day, after school and on weekends. Twenty-four Maryland teams sent in applications, but only 10 teams completed their projects due to the rigors of the competition. MDOT SHA engineers from several office divisions helped coach the teams using technical drafting software required for their bridge designs.

Each of the student teams represent Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation schools, one of Maryland’s inaugural partners to incorporate the AASHTO TRAC and RIDES programs into its curriculum. Through TRAC, students apply math and science to solve real-world transportation and civil engineering challenges and work side-by-side with transportation professionals who mentor both teachers and students. MDOT SHA provides educational resources to enhance classroom learning such as: TRAC kits, teacher guides, computer programs, and materials; teacher training; and engineer volunteers to mentor students all free of charge to the schools.  Now similar resources are available to Maryland elementary schools through the RIDES program.

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