Inspiring students to choose careers in transportation: TAC Foundation brings TRAC™ Session to Ottawa

Monday, November 21, 2022

Eighteen students from West Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa recently took part in a TRAC™ session hosted by the TAC Foundation. An educational outreach program of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, TRAC™ is designed for use in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes with hands-on activities to introduce students to the work world of transportation and civil engineering. The goal is to inspire students to consider careers in those fields.

The event held in Ottawa on November 10th focused on magnetic levitation technology. The day included lessons about laws of motion, physics, principles of experimentation, graphing and analyzing results. Students applied those lessons as they designed and built Styrofoam vehicles and then raced them to achieve the fastest times on magnetic tracks. The competition was fierce with students innovating and modifying designs to shave milliseconds off their time. As the final races were run and medals awarded, one student was overheard saying the day had been the best experience she’d had so far in the school year.

Teacher Michael Field led the field trip for his tech design class of Grade 11 and 12 students. At the start of the day, he said the students seemed intimidated, primarily by the advanced physics equations and concepts. However, he added, “they pushed through, really enjoyed the experience and have come away from the event with a greater sense of confidence in themselves and a better understanding of those concepts they originally feared. Just a terrific experience for the students!”

Preparing the track

Testing the track

Winning vehicles

Medals for the winners

Keith Foster, who has championed the TRAC™ program in Canada and organized three events to date in Ottawa, said, “Based on my observations today, I can see a lot of potential (for future engineers) in the room – very encouraging.”

TAC Foundation Executive Director Jean-François Gysel observed, “a key objective of the Foundation is to raise awareness and interest in careers in transportation. Having spent the day with the students and seeing the sparkle in their eyes while doing the workshop I believe we can say it is mission accomplished. They obviously had a lot of fun while learning about transportation, exploring real problems, and using math and physics to find practical solutions.”

The TAC Foundation is grateful to Keith Foster, Englobe, and Morrison Hershfield whose generous support made the day possible. Additional support from AASHTO, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and TAC also contributed to the event. But most important to the success of the day was the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity of the participating students. More TRAC™ sessions, on a wide range of topics, are being planned so get involved with the TAC Foundation by contacting if you want to inspire and be inspired by the next generation of transportation professionals.