Across the country, millions of students are heading to the podium, taking part in commencement ceremonies at institutions of higher education. These sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and colleagues equate to more than just numbers, they are our Nation’s future.
In addition to their degrees, these graduates hold the key to innovation. Many students spend four or more years working on the “the next big thing” – that cog in the wheel that will turn our present mode of thinking, living and doing into tomorrow’s reality.
Secretary Foxx at the UTA's Center for Transportation Research at the TACC’s Visualization Laboratory
At the US Department of Transportation, we invest substantially in these students, through our University Transportation Centers (UTCs) Program. Graduates with backgrounds rich in diversity – be it diversity of thought, experience, or otherwise, are making valuable contributions to transportation innovation at these Centers of Excellence. The UTC Program’s dollar-for-dollar match requirement has leveraged Federal funds and encouraged engagement by State DOTs, corporations, and other partners. The UTC Program has increasingly emphasized coordination and collaboration among universities and their partners in State and municipal governments, K–12 educational institutions, and corporations. America’s economy and quality of life have been and continue to be enhanced by the results of the UTC Program.
From whiteboards to labs to real-time deployment of technology, our students and faculty conduct basic, advanced, and applied research, the products of which are judged by peers or other experts in the field of transportation to advance the body of knowledge in transportation.
Indeed, we are on the cusp of many exciting breakthroughs towards making our Nation’s roads safer. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) technology has been developed and tested at many of our UTCs. Across the country, our UTCs participate in an ongoing program of technology transfer that makes transportation research results available to potential users in a form that can be implemented, utilized, commercialized, or otherwise applied.
FAMU President Elmira Mangum, Secretary Anthony Foxx and UTC member Dr. Doreen Kobelo, assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Engineering Technology, pose with four Dwight D. Eisenhower Fellows, whose research is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Many municipalities rely on the work from our UTC reports and findings to make critical decisions - decisions that can have a profound effect on our everyday lives. How much time and money can be saved by using public transportation? Does improved traffic light timing reduce pollution? How can we make pedestrian crossings safer for rural communities? Smart road signs that let us know traffic ahead is delayed – how effective are they?
We have these answers, and so much more, because of the innovative thinking that takes place at UTCs nationwide. These thought leaders fan out across the workforce, bringing with them the critical skills that move our country forward.
Without a dedicated critical transportation knowledge base, we would not be able to address vital workforce needs and educate the next generation of transportation leaders. As we celebrate Innovation Month at USDOT, UTCs stand out as superb examples of investing in our future.