ITE Student Chapters around the United States are reaching out to high school students to help them get a head start in higher education in STEM through special mentoring and outreach programs.
The ITE National STEM Committee reached out to Suzana Duran Bernardes, a Ph.D. candidate in NYU Tandon’s Transportation Engineering and Planning program, a graduate research assistant at NYU’s C2SMART Center, and Vice President of the NYU-ITE Student Chapter, to share her experiences mentoring high school students who are conducting research on the effect of car proximity on the stress level of cyclist.
Find ITE’s interview with Suzana below.
1. Can you tell us a little about your research and how the high school students were involved?
My research is focused on improving data collection methods for non-motorized vehicles such as traditional and electric bicycles. As part of my research, I developed a multi-sensor portable device that can be mounted to a bicycle and collect various information on bicycle trajectory, including speed of a bicycle and its distance from lateral obstacles (e.g., cars and other bicycles). The students helped develop the methodology to collect cyclist heart rate and combine this data with the trajectory and distance data. They also performed an initial analysis of how the distance between the bicycle and passing vehicles would affect the heart rate of the cyclist. In addition to contributing to my PhD project, they have become familiar with other ongoing C2SMART Center transportation projects Former NYU-ITE Student Chapter president, Jingqin Gao, supervised the students as they assisted with tasks like creating maps for inclusion in a paper on life-cycle cost analysis.
2. What was the most rewarding aspect of working with high school students?
The most rewarding aspect was seeing how much they were able to learn during the short period of time they were here and to know that the knowledge they acquired by working with us can contribute to their future careers independent of the major they decide to pursue.
3. What impacts do you think the research task had on the high school students?
I noticed that they were much more confident when presenting their work at the end of the internship than they were when previously explaining their work during the first week of the program (a week dedicated to training the students on the research tools they would be using during the program). I believe they developed this confidence about their work because they were extremely involved in the research tasks and had some freedom throughout the analytical thinking process, in which they were encouraged to draw their own conclusions.
4. What important concepts did the high school students learn from your interactions with them?
They learned to use several tools relevant to transportation analysis. We provided them with courses to learn these tools and then apply them. These courses were taught by other NYU- ITE Student Chapter members. For instance, former Vice President, Reuben Justus, taught SQL, member Di Yang taught ArcGIS, and member Fan Zuo taught them how to use SUMO for simulation. I also like to think that they improved their organization and time management skills, as they needed to perform different tasks to finish their specific assignments.
Moreover, they had the opportunity to learn about real world research using not only computer tools, but also by using the city as a lab.
5. What advice could you give to other ITE student chapters interested in engaging high school students?
I would advise them to reach out to a local university’s transportation lab or research center, or to look for existing university programs that work with high school students. In our case, we were able to participate in this program because we are in close connection with the C2SMART Center (a Tier 1 USDOT University Transportation Center) and UrbanMITS lab at New York University (NYU), which participates yearly in NYU’s K-12 program, ARISE.
6. How did the ITE student chapter connect with the high school students?
The connection was made through the UrbanMITS lab, led by Professor Kaan Ozbay, Director of the C2SMART Center, and through the BUILT Lab, led by Professor Joseph Chow, Deputy Director of the C2SMART Center. ARISE takes high school interns yearly through NYU’s ARISE summer program. The connections with these research labs and with the C2SMART Center allowed us to rely on a well-established and organized high school internship program, which enabled us to focus on the cutting-edge transportation research experience we provided to the students.
7. Did the high school student have any knowledge or passion in the transportation profession before this?
They were more focused on pursuing majors related to Computer Science. However, by the end of the program, they mentioned considering options such as Civil Engineering or Urban Engineering.
8. Did this result in a change in career outlook for the high school students?
I like to believe that it did. By the end of the internship program, students were considering pursuing majors related to transportation in the future. We were also able to provide them with strong recommendation letters from C2SMART Center Director, Professor Kaan Ozbay, and from myself. They went on to include these letters as part of their college applications.
9. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experiences?
I would like to say that this experience provides growth not only to the participating high school students, but also to all the NYU ITE student chapter members involved as mentors. We had to put much thought into the tasks we assign them as well as on how we present ourselves to them. We were their role models after all. It is important to keep in mind that they will be working on improving transportation in the future, and we want to have inspired professionals who will make a difference