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The TDOT TRAC  mission is to introduce students in grades 6-12 to the working world of transportation, especially civil engineering, and inspire them to consider careers in those fields.

Transportation and Civil Engineering

How Does the Program Work?

The TRAC program is a hands-on education program designed for use in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math classes, grades 6-12.  By engaging students in solving real-world problems, TRAC connects students to the working world of transportation and inspires them to consider careers in transportation and civil engineering.   

The program is composed of three self-contained education modules featuring professionally developed curricula that meet national standards of learning. Each module is delivered in a TRAC trunk that contains the equipment, software, and supplies needed to perform hands-on activities related to: Bridge Design, Design & Construction, Magnetic Levitation.

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TN educators wishing to utilize TRAC in their classroom attend a day long training session, free of charge, facilitated by TDOT's TRAC Program Manager to equip them with the knowledge and resources to implement the program. At the conclusion of the training, teachers receive 1 of the 3 TRAC modules.  Click on the Upcoming Events tab above to sign-up for our next training!

TDOT can also provide participating educators with engineer volunteers who visit the classrooms to serve as speakers, teach a hands-on activity, and/or talk to students about the importance of math and science in preparing for their future. 

The TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) Program was established in 1993 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). AASHTO realized that one of the most pressing problems faced by transportation departments was a critical shortage of civil engineers in the workforce. In an effort to increase career interest in civil engineering, AASHTO established the program as a traveling roadshow to advertise careers in civil engineering to high school students. Now, TRAC is a comprehensive program taught in a “laboratory-style” setting. Implemented ONLY through local DOTs.

In 2016, TDOT launched AASHTO's TRAC Program under the direction and guidance of the Department's Chief Engineer who recognized the need to increase STEM curriculum throughout the state and raise awareness of the civil engineering profession. To date, over 130 TN educators have been TRAC trained and the Program is being implemented in 70 middle and high schools across the state. TDOT TRAC continues to grow by offering multiple summer workshops each year and by providing engineer visitations to participating TRAC schools, where Department engineers assist students with TRAC activities and/or talk to students about transportation careers.

AASHTO TRAC member states 2019
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With the Bridge Builder Module, students will practice the math and science concepts a structural engineer uses to create a bridge. These concepts are presented individually through six activities, culminating in the construction of the students’ own creations, as they apply math and physics skills. This interactive module engages students from the first activity to the last with computer-based learning, demonstrations, computer-based design, and model construction. Activities in this module include:

Activity 1: Structural Concepts - An interactive computer‐based introduction to the basic concepts employed by a structural engineer when designing and building bridges. Students learn about different forces that a bridge must be capable of withstanding and ways different materials are suited to withstand them. They also learn about different types of bridges and the factors that are considered in choosing the most suitable structure type and materials for a given location. Online demonstrations illustrate these points.

Activity 2: Beam Me Up - Involves three in-class demonstrations that illustrate some of the key structural concepts that are essential to understanding how basic bridges behave. Students see how the efficiency of a simple structure is affected by its basic geometry.

Activity 3: Bridge Analysis - The first part serves as an introduction to the theory behind how engineers determine how much force is transferred to each member of a truss from the force applied tothe structure. This procedure uses geometry to evaluate the horizontal and vertical components of theforce vectors. The second part of Activity 3 gives the students an introduction to computer‐based design utilizing a software program called ModelSmart. ModelSmart allows students to design computational bridge models that can be used to predict overall structure strength and weight. This program allows students to define the bridge geometry, choose the material properties, and apply different loading situations. After designing the bridge, a computational analysis can be performed that shows students how their models performed and if they deformed or failed under the given loading state.

Activity 4: Draft It Up! - A drafting activity utilizing Bentley MicroStation PowerDraft V8i software. This activity provides students with a basic introduction to CAD software. Students draw the truss they analyzed in Activity 3 and create a plan similar to what construction workers would use to build a bridge.

Activities 5 and 6: Basic and Imroved Box Bridge Structures - Students take part in hands‐on activities that guide them through the process of building their own bridges, which they will test in class as part of a design competition. The judging of each student‐built structure will be based upon the overall weight of the structure and its performance, which will be measured by applying incremental loads to the structure until it fails.

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The Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) Module contains technology that is relevant to today’s middle and high school science classes. In this module, students put magnetic levitation cars through the paces, while learning Newton’s First and Second Laws of Motion with five interactive activities. Civil Engineers rely on these two concepts when designing new roadways and developing ways to keep our roads safe.

Activity 1: Timing Newton’s Apple - Demonstrates to students that there is some reaction time required to perform an action, no matter how instantaneous the response may seem. Students will do their best to start and stop a stopwatch as quickly as they can, and then average their reaction times, as they will more than likely differ each time. Reaction times, as they relate to different roadway situations, will are discussed.

Activity 2: Running and Graphing the Gauntlet - Validates Newton’s First Law, which states an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Students will verify this by observing how a maglev car moves with minimal resistance from friction. They will then plot position versus time data, and use that plot to determine velocity versus time.

Activity 3: Caution, 6% Grade Ahead - Explores Newton’s Second Law and introduces the concept of acceleration due to gravity through observation of how gravity affects vehicles traveling on an inclined surface. Using an angled track, students measure the increase in velocity of the maglev car due to the acceleration of gravity as the car moves down the ramp. (This activity is designed for students who have not yet had trigonometry.)

Activity 4: Graphing the Grade - Students explore Newton’s Second Law and will be introduced to the concept of acceleration due to gravity through the observation of how gravity affects vehicles on an inclined surface. Using an angled track, students measure the increase in velocity of the maglev car due to the acceleration of gravity as the car moves down the ramp. This activity varies from the Activity 3 through the application of more advanced topics and use of trigonometry to explore the relationship between time, position, velocity, and acceleration.

Activity 5: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee - Students use the skills they have learned to create a maglev car and race against their peers. Students will observe how aerodynamics afftect the speed of cars and will learn how this applies to actual vehicles.

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In the Roadway Design and Construction Module, students combine mathematics, social studies, and technology in four separate activities. In this module, students learn transportation design, planning, and cost estimating. Using roadway design as the vehicle for learning, students apply important classroom theory to transportation issues that impact their own lives every day.

Activity 1: How Much Traffic Can the Road Handle? - Activity 1 consists of two sections (A and B) that explain the concept of traffic flow rates at varying traffic densities and also demonstrates how there is a maximum number of cars able to move through a lane within anhour. Activity 1A is a short two‐part activity to demonstrate flow rates of popcorn kernels through different funnels. Activity 1B has students determine traffic flow rates from given traffic density and average speed information using Microsoft Excel. Activity 

Activity 2: Not In My Backyard! - A one to two class‐period, hands‐on drawing exercise that asks students to determine how to align a road that will go from point A to point B on a map, given that there is no optimal location for the road. Students consider design consequences, costs, and environmental impacts when deciding where to route the road.

Activity 3: How Much Does It Cost? - Uses the map from Activity 2 to explain how real estate prices are determined. In this activity, students use Microsoft Excel to create a computer‐based model for estimating land prices, and then apply that model to determine the cost of the right‐of‐way that must be acquired for a roadway.

Activity 4: Construction Estimating- Activity 4 is an exercise in estimating the cost of construction, including labor, equipment, material, overhead, and profit. Using arithmetic, geometric, and problem solving skills, students walk through the process of estimating a basic construction project.

Interested in learning more about the TDOT TRAC Program? If so, contact Paige Harris at 615-532-5514 or at

Collaboration between TN Educators & TDOT Engineers

The program is free of charge to TN middle and high school teachers.  TDOT provides training workshops to TN educators to equip them with the knowledge and resources to implement the program.  At the conclusion of the training, teachers receive 1 of the 3 TRAC modules.  

Sign up for ONE (1) of the upcoming workshops below:

June 4, 2019
9:00am – 3:30pm (CT)

TDOT Region 3 Facility
6601 Centennial Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37243

July 9, 2019
9:00am – 3:30pm (ET)

TDOT Region 1 Facility
7345 Region Lane
Knoxville, TN 37914

July 19, 2019
9:00am – 3:30pm (CT)

TDOT Region 3 Facility
6601 Centennial Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37243

The Competition:

The highlight of the TRAC program is the annual Bridge Building Competition.  This event is designed to allow students the opportunity to develop a bridge made out of balsa wood that will be tested for strength-to-weight ratio.  The competition is divided into three groups: 7th-8th grade, 9th-10th grade, and 11th-12th grade.  Student teams compete against other TRAC student teams from across the country.

Initially, each team will be provided with the TRAC Challenge Entry Kit, materials and guidelines to construct a bridge out of balsa wood.  Each participating team then submits a portfolio with their bridge design.  Based on the portfolio entered, if chosen as a finalist, teams will present a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation to a panel of judges made up of engineers and structurally test their bridges against teams from other states to determine the winning bridge.

Who Can Enter?

  • Only schools involved in the TRAC program can enter the competition
  • Students must be within the eligible groups: 7th-8th grade, 9th-10th grade or 11th-12th grade
  • Teams shall be composed of three (3) members
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Interested in Creating a Team?

  1. Attend a TDOT TRAC Teacher Training Workshop.
  2. Contact TDOT’s TRAC Program Manager, Paige Harris at to help you get started.
  3. Form a team of interested students or friends. Discuss the challenges and design specifications. Teams shall consist of three students. Each team must have at least one teacher or other adult to help and advise, though a single adult may be advisor to more than one team.
  4. Study the rules. The individual challenge documents and the grading criteria will give important information, which must be followed if your team is to achieve the best results. Failure to adhere to the rules could lead to penalties, or even disqualification. If any of the information is not clear, please call for additional help.
  5. Plan the timing of the project. Ensure that everyone in the team knows the date for submission of the written report, and recognizes that this means that all major development work should be finished before this date.
  6. Keep records of meetings and working drawings carefully, and give members of the team responsibility for different sections of the final report.

For more information on AASHTO’s Bridge Competition, visit their website at

We are always looking for ways to promote the TDOT TRAC Program!  If there is ever an appropriate avenue to do so through conferences, STEM hubs, school events, etc. to present and promote the program please contact  

Washington County Department of Education – Monthly Core CTE Directors Meeting - March 14, 2019

TDOT TRAC will speak to the First Core CTE Directors at their monthly meeting to share information about the TDOT TRAC Program and encourage teachers in the area to participate in this STEM, educational outreach program!

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System Engage Conference - June 5, 2019

TDOT representatives will be participating in the 2019 CMCSS Engage Conference. The morning of June 5 will be geared towards 8th grade teachers and focus on the Magnetic Levitation module. The afternoon of June 5 will be geared towards 9th grade teachers and focus on the Design and Construction module. 

Supplemental Materials for Each Module
Magnetic Levitation (Maglev):
Styrofoam Blocks
Magnetic Tape
Design and Construction:
Road Curves
Bridge Builder:
Balsa Wood
Wood Glue
Graph Paper
Wax Paper
Safety Cutters