The National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) is a program run by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that is geared toward enhancing awareness of transportation industry careers among middle and high school students.
In NSTI, which is available in most states across the country as well as Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico, students attend camps at local universities and community colleges where they participate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related lessons and activities, take field trips, and get a glimpse of what life is like on a college campus.
Warren S. Whitlock is Associate Administrator of FHWA’s Office of Civil Rights, and an administrator of the NSTI program. NSTI originated with the idea that it was important that students were given the knowledge and opportunity to discover and pursue careers in the transportation and construction industries.
“The NSTI program is an excellent way for young people to begin the process of understanding what areas in the transportation industry may be of interest to them to follow,” Whitlock said.
There are a number of unique aspects about NSTI. For example, NSTI has partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at certain site locations to provide an aviation-focused program for students who are interested in air transportation, called the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy Program.
“Some of these children have the opportunity to get into a helicopter with a pilot and fly the helicopter for a few minutes. They get really high-level attention,” Whitlock said.
NSTI, which is administered by FHWA’s Office of Civil Rights, is also dedicated to exposing underserved, underrepresented youth populations to careers and opportunities in the transportation industry.
“The office of civil rights really oversees fairness issues throughout all of the work we do in Federal Highway,” Whitlock said. ? "It’s all about creating opportunities, about helping this nation maintain its standing as the top transportation country in the world.”
NSTI is offered to middle school students, as well as high school juniors and seniors, in groups of about 16-25 per site. Students attend day camps on the college campus of an accredited university or community college, or stay on campus for the entirety of the club during the resident program.
“We prefer that the experience with these young people is on a college campus to give young people the sense of what the day-to-day operation and lifestyle and environment is on a college campus, because hopefully they’ll be moving on to higher education when they finish their middle school and secondary education levels,” Whitlock said.
The program’s lessons and activities are guided by college instructors and professors or undergraduate student teaching assistants. The lessons cover careers and topics relating to STEM, transportation, and construction, as well as real-world applications of these concepts. Students also take a variety of field trips, such as to actual construction sites.
“We’re connecting [students] not only with mathematical and scientific formulas to show how we build roads and bridges, but we’re also showing them the practical applications of all of that technology and science,” Whitlock said. “Even for those young children who do not go into transportation or engineering as a field, we know that these kinds of lessons and explanations and background information ? stay them for a very, very long time.”
Whitlock said that students who are interested in enrolling in NSTI or its affiliate, ACE, can start with a Google search for programs in their area, or by visiting the FHWA’s Civil Rights Office NSTI home page. For students or teachers who do not live near an NSTI host university, Whitlock said there is always the possibility of starting NSTI in one’s own state or community. The first step would be for an educator to contact their state department of transportation.
“What I recommend is that a university or teacher interested in participating in this program directly contact the commissioner’s office or the secretary’s office of that state transportation agency, and let them know that that school or teacher or instructor is interested in participating,” Whitlock said about initiating an NSTI program.
For your convenience, a link to the FHWA website that lists contact information for all state departments of transportation is included here. You can also click here to link to the ACE Academy Program home page, and here to get to the NSTI home page.