Fighting Gridlock: Idaho Transportation Technology Center Wins National Education Award

Wednesday, September 23 2009


Written by Ken Kingery

MOSCOW, Idaho – Since 2000, the University of Idaho’s National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT) has trained engineers across the country to fight gridlock via two innovative programs. Those innovations have been recognized with a national education award.

The Institute of Transportation Engineers recently presented NIATT with the 2009 Transportation Education Council Best Innovation in Education Award for its Traffic Signal Summer Workshop and Mobile Signal Timing Training (MOST) course. These educational efforts are intensive immersion workshops: the former features five days hands-on learning during a summer course, and the latter uses computer-based workshops with new simulation technologies.

"This award is a great honor," said Michael Kyte, who served as director of NIATT throughout the development of the workshops. "To be recognized by your peers, that’s about as good as it gets."

The Traffic Signal Summer Workshop ran from 2000 to 2007, and gave more than 80 students from more than 30 universities from around the U.S. and Canada the chance to get hands-on experience with traffic control systems. The program’s innovation came in the form of a controller interface device (CID) that allowed field hardware to be integrated with simulation software. The resulting simulation setup gave students in the lab experience with actual transportation system devices.

Since its invention, the CID has been improved to connect commonly used traffic simulation models with most widely used traffic controllers. The CID’s usefulness has led to the sale of more than 130 of the devices to more than 40 different groups across the country.

Despite the CID’s availability for purchase, people across the country began clamoring for the workshop to be taken on the road. However, it is difficult to load an entire laboratory’s worth of equipment into a van and take it off campus.

Instead, the team began working in conjunction with Tom Urbanik from the University of Tennessee and Darcy Bullock from Purdue University to develop simulation software that could replace the summer workshop. The result was MOST, also a five-day workshop but delivered via 37 individual experiments grouped into seven laboratories, a 400-page workbook and simulation software that includes software versions of the traffic control hardware.

Now, the team is looking to develop an instructor’s manual for the National Highway Institute so that MOST can be taught by anyone, anywhere.

"These programs couldn’t have been successful without a great team working tirelessly," said Kyte, who cited Rick Wells, Brian Johnson, Zhen Li, Ahmed Abdel-Rahim, Enas Amin and Michael Dixon – all from the University of Idaho – as key contributors. "They deserve the credit because they were the ones helping to make this happen."
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.  






About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.