Wheelchairs and "Supershoes" - Introducing Transportation Engineering to Middle School Students

Georgia Tech researchers and students are working with 5th and 6th graders at a local public elementary school to expose students to transportation engineering data collection, analysis, research design, critical thinking and planning.

About Centennial Place Academy


  • 86% African American, 5% Caucasian, 3% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 4% Multi Racial
  • 71% of students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program.
  • Student population comes from the Centennial Place neighborhood and includes two shelters.
  • First conversion charter in the Atlanta Public School System.

Opening Session

The partnership kicked off in summer 2014 with a large event that reached over 80 fifth grade students and involved 10 graduate students and researchers. The students were given an exciting transportation presentation followed by hands-on activities, including mode choice mapping and modeling, accessibility challenges using wheelchairs, and paper and electronic travel diary activities.

(Georgia Tech students and researchers at opening session presentation with Centennial fifth graders)

Hands-On Research Sessions

The follow-up sessions occurred in fall 2014 and were conducted with 20 sixth graders who chose to participate after the opening session. The students were split into groups and had graduate students assigned to mentor them in the following modules:

  • Module 1 - Mode Choice: Discussed transportation mode choices and useed class as a sample to map and analyze a full dataset.
  • Module 2- Accessibility: Students explored accessibility through mobility activities as wheelchair users.
  • Module 3- Traffic Engineering: Introduced the technique of vehicle counting; demonstrate its application in traffic engineering.
  • Module 4- Roadway Environments: Introduced students to perceived complexity of roadway environments for all users.
(Students took turns using wheelchairs to test the accessibility of labs, libraries and classrooms at their school)