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♦♦♦ NOW AVAILABLE ♦♦♦ The guidelines for the 2019 National Bridge and Structure Competition, held annually for students from participating TRAC™ & RIDES states, are located on AASHTO's website.

In 2016, TDOT launched the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) Program. TRAC is a hands-on education program designed for use in science, technology, engineering, and math classes. grades 6 -12. It is provided free of charge for middle and high school teachers in Tennessee. TDOT provides TRAC training  workshops to TN educators and also provides 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. By bringing transportation professionals into the classroom, the TRAC Program connects students to the working world and inspires them to consider careers in transportation and civil engineering.

The TDOT TRAC Program includes three modules which engage students in solving real-world problems such as designing and building a bridge, building a magnetic levitation car, and analyzing, planning, and designing a roadway facility. The three modules are Bridge Builder, Magnetic Levitation, and Roadway Design and Construction. (To learn more about each module, click on the links below.)

Materials in Bridge Builder Module

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.


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.


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.

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

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

  • Activity 1: Structural Concepts - Please read these directions before accessing the Activity 1 file below.
  • Activity 3B: Computer-Based Bridge Modeling in ModelSmart 2D 
  • Activity 3C: Computer-Based Bridge Modeling in ModelSmart 3D
  •     Activity 4: Draft It Up!