R.I. Students Participate in Construction Career Days

Tue June 09, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams




Hundreds of high school and middle school students from across Rhode Island learned on the job site training as the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) recently completed another five days of National Transportation Week events.

“It was a phenomenal week, full of activities. We couldn’t be more pleased with how things turned out,” said RIDOT Assistant Director Phil Kydd, who spoke of the Robotics Challenge for middle school students, Construction Career Day and Engineering Career Day for high school students, which all took place, May 11 to 15.

RIDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center sponsored the week-long event, which took place at the URI Kingston Campus in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

“We closed the week on Friday, getting students excited about transitioning to a possible career in engineering,” said Kydd. “We’ve gotten more media attention for the week now, and that’s a symptom of the success. Showing kids that there are really good careers in transportation, not just the blue collar side.”

For the Fifth Annual Robotics Challenge at the URI Transportation Center, Kydd explained, “We had 10 schools, and 150 kids, broken into teams. Robots built by the student teams completed a challenge course consisting of six missions such as plowing “snow” off an airport runway, raising a hurricane barrier and delivering safety barrels to a road construction site, all using general engineering principles.

The Robotics Challenge also included a poster competition with the theme of “Careers in Transportation.” Teams were free to select and research information about any particular career related to transportation.

“While one school was up and doing the obstacle course and being timed, another school was doing a poster program, designing a poster to show their view of transportation,” added Kydd. Westerly Middle School won the poster program and the winning poster is now on display at URI at the Transportation Center.

The Robotics Challenge was won by Riverside Middle School, with Winman Junior High of Warwick second, and Martin Middle School in East Providence, third. “We are very proud of them,” said Kydd.

Asked about possible expansion of the program next year, Kydd said, “We think the robotics component works really well. We will be getting together to debrief all of the week’s activities, how they went, and to make improvements and to see where those improvements should be,”

“We don’t like to turn anybody away,” Kydd said of adding new schools and more participants. “Do we make it a bigger event? Do we go to another day? It’s already an eventful week, but it’s a good problem to have. We will recap and decide where we go. But we are extremely pleased.”

“Events like this are incredibly important to get students thinking at a young age about career choices and opportunities in transportation,” said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis.

Students had been preparing for this competition for the past several weeks, and most belong to after-school robotics clubs. They used robotic kits based on Lego building bricks.

Participating Robotics Teams included:

• Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry

• Archie Cole Middle School and our Lady of Mercy School, East Greenwich

• Barrington Middle School, Barrington

• Martin Middle School and Riverside Middle School, East Providence

• Monsignor Matthew F. Clarke Catholic Regional School, Wakefield

• Newport Community School, Newport

• Winman Junior High School, Warwick

• Westerly Middle School, Westerly

Nearly 1,300 high school students visited the RIDOT Midstate Facility in East Greenwich, May 13 and 14 for a learning experience that’s nothing like a typical day in school.

Instead of learning about the construction industry through a text book, they got to put their hands on the real thing — getting to operate backhoes, excavators, pavers, bucket trucks and more during the ninth annual Construction Career Days

“Despite this challenging economy, these types of jobs will always be in demand,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “This is a great opportunity for students to explore careers in the many trades that support the transportation and construction industries.”

Students attending the event moved from station to station, operating heavy machinery on the grounds of the Midstate Facility and visiting numerous tables and displays inside covering welding, plumbing, electrical, landscaping and other construction disciplines. Additionally, a number of technical schools and colleges were in attendance.