Successful 2024 Summer High School Rail Program

Approximately 120 high school students from around the globe had the opportunity to learn about railroad operations and engineering during the Summer 2024 program, “Tracks to the Future: Railroad Transportation and Engineering,” which took place at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and nine other university campuses.

The week of 24-29 June, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign hosted 25 teens from Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Brazil who participated in hands-on activities guided by RailTEC graduate students who are AREMA student chapter members. Among the numerous activities, the teens had the chance to operate a train simulator, build a small-scale version of a ballasted track, and learn why railcars are different shapes and sizes.

The highlight of the Illinois visit was the 28 June trip to the Monticello Railway Museum where the high school students were able to experience rail operations from museum volunteers, rode the rails in a caboose and open railcar, and learned about rail sensors and monitoring equipment from RailTEC’s research engineers.

The Tracks to the Future program, which began with Michigan Technological University’s Rail Transportation Program, has grown to include weeklong sessions at 10 universities around the U.S. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) funds the program and all participant costs.

The 2024 program included two sessions. The first session took place 10-14 June at Penn State-Altoona and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The second session took place 24-28 June at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Michigan Technological University; University of District of Columbia; University of South Carolina, Columbia; California State University, Fresno; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Oregon State University, Corvallis; and North Dakota State University, Fargo. The hybrid program featured a two-day at-home learning portion before traveling to one of the partner campuses for a two-day visit.