BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With a national shortage of civil engineers — a profession historically dominated by men — a new program is out to change all of that.
It’s called TRAC, which stands for transportation and civil engineering, and it works in schools to encourage students to get excited about a profession full of opportunity.
With a cut of the ribbon in Laurel Friday, students from 10 Maryland schools became part of a national competition to encourage young people — particularly minorities and women — to help design the roads, highways and bridges of the future .
Judging by their experience designing and building bridges, it’s working.
“I want to become a civil engineer, I want to make bridges and innovate the way people travel by making safe and efficient bridges in the world,” seventh-grader James Russell said.
TRAC is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Transportation.
“It ultimately is really about the kids, and really for us as a society developing those next generation of engineers,” MDOT Deputy Administrator Jason Ridgway said.
One team staged a test run of the design of its bridge, adding sand until it reached the point of collapse — a demonstration of just how much these middle and high schoolers are learning.
“We’re very surprised because this is the highest efficiency we’ve had yet,” seventh-grader Liam Brinton said. “Our other efficiencies were around eight and 10.”
But the big surprise Friday: only one Maryland team was selected to compete nationally in the finals, and they learned they’re headed to Tennessee with their project.
“I’m really excited to see where this takes us, especially because I was told we were one of the first African-American female team to compete in this competition. That’s something that’s really important to me, to diversify every field,” 12th-grader Ogechi Obizo said.
The winning “Bold and Beautiful Bridge Team” is from CMIT Academy in Anne Arundel County.
The finals in the national competition will be held late May.