Guidebook for Railway-themed K-12 STEM Outreach Activities
The Guidebook for Railway-themed K-12 STEM Outreach Activities contains descriptions of educational activities designed to introduce students to the railroad transportation mode through the lens of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts.
While the railroad industry is the leader in long-haul freight transportation in the United States, recruiting students to leadership roles in the industry is challenging. With many railroad employees approaching retirement age, the need to raise student awareness of railway industry career opportunities has never been greater.
The activities in the guidebook available for download below cover a wide variety of railroad topics. The hands-on activities are intended to provide students with knowledge through experiential learning that also increases their awareness of railway transportation technology. Although the guidebook provides step-by-step directions for each activity, we encourage you to experiment with modifications to each activity and to create your own activities on other facets of the railroad industry and STEM topics.
This guidebook was made possible by the financial support of the following organizations:
• National University Rail Center (NURail), a U.S. DOT OST-R Tier 1 University Transportation Center
• National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association
Download the entire guidebook in PDF format:
Full Guidebook for Railway-themed K-12 STEM Outreach Activities (10.2 MB)
Or download individual activity description PDF documents:
1) Railcar Puzzle and Commodity Matching Game (3.2 MB)
2) Railcar Size and Weight for Different Freight Shipment Density (1.4 MB)
3) Wheel-Rail Dynamics: How Railcars Travel Around Curves (2.2 MB)
4) Train Rolling Resistance (3.1 MB)
5) Locomotive and Train Simulators (1.2 MB)
6) Railroad Track Construction (1.8 MB)
7) Edible Railroad Track Construction (1.0 MB)
8) Single-Track Railway Operations Simulation Game (2.5 MB)
9) Classification Yards and Railcar Sorting (4.1 MB)
10) Intermodal Transportation Game (2.1 MB)
11) Railroad Safety, and Potential Collaborators, Educational Opportunities and Resources for Additional Learning (1.1 MB)
Bibliography of Recent Papers on Railway Education and K-12 STEM Outreach
Barkan, C.P.L. Building an Education Infrastructure for Railway Transportation Engineering: Renewed Partnerships on New Tracks, TR News, 2008. 257:18-23.
Dick, C.T., B.W. Schlake and P.T. Lautala. STEM Outreach to K-12 Students: The Root of Railway Engineering Education. Proc., American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, 2018.
Dick, C.T., P. Lautala and B.W. Schlake. STEM K-12 Outreach as the Root of Transportation Education: Experiences From the Railway Engineering Field. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2019. 2673(12): 558-569. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361198119841564.
Evans, L.E. and C.T. Dick. Understanding Influences on Student Pursuit of Railway Education and Careers. Proc., American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association Annual Conference, Virtual Event, 2020.
Lautala, P.T. From Classroom to Rail Industry – A Rail Engineer in the Making. Proc., American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, 2007.
Lautala, P.T. What the Railroad Industry Needs and Expects from Higher Education: Meeting the Needs. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2013. 2329(1):32-39. https://doi.org/10.3141/2328-05
Lautala, P.T. and C.T. Dick. Railway Engineering Education Symposium: Evolving to Rebuild a Growing Rail Academic Community. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2017. 2608(1):96-104. https://doi.org/10.3141/2608-11
Lautala, P.T., C.T. Dick, J.L. McKinney and D.B. Clarke. Railway Engineering Education Symposium (REES) – Universities and Industry Collaborate to Develop Railway Education. Proc.,2013 ASME Joint Rail Conference, Knoxville, TN, 2013.
Lautala, P.T., C.T. Dick, D. Rizos and D.B. Clarke. Toward the Next Generation of Railroad Professionals – Collaboration by NURail and Rail Industry. Proc., American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN, 2015.
Lautala, P.T. and W.J. Sproule. Rebuilding Railroad Engineering Education in the United States with Industry-University Partnerships. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2009. 2109(1):37-44. https://doi.org/10.3141/2109-05