Hands-on Activity: Mass Transit Living Lab: Graphing the West Corridor Data

Contributed by: Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Colorado School of Mines

Pedestrians walk by a few light-rail train cars in front of Union Station in downtown Denver, CO.
Students investigate a transit system's design
copyright
Copyright © Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation http://www.fta.dot.gov/newsroom/12286_14452.html

Summary

Students are introduced to graphical analysis of data to analyze flaws in a transit system's design. They evaluate factors such as ride time, wait time and percentage of train capacity. This activity requires the use of the Mass Transit Living Lab—a web portal to interactive train (transit) traffic data for a major metropolitan city.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Transportation engineers are responsible for designing and operating the transit systems that deliver people and goods, including rail, highways and roads, and air traffic. Transportation engineers aim to design efficient systems that move people and goods quickly, safely and cost-effectively. Students become fully immersed in transportation engineering during this activity.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Plot simple variables versus time on graph paper.
  • Calculate percentages and graph them versus time on graph paper.
  • Answer questions quantitatively using information obtained from a graph.

More Curriculum Like This

Mass Transit Living Lab: Improving West Corridor Design

Students evaluate whether a particular section of a transit system is functioning in an efficient manner and whether it is meeting design requirements. Then, they suggest design improvements and evaluate whether the changes make positive impacts on the transit system performance.

Mass Transit Living Lab: Analyze the Data

Students go through the logical process of quantitatively analyzing real-world transit data. They gain experience identifying problems with the current design based upon their earlier observations and experiences in activities 1 and 2.

Mass Transit Living Lab: Improve the System

Students go through the process of identifying possible solutions to the design problems that the existing west corridor transit system faces. Students combine what they have learned from the three previous activities to come up with possible solutions to the design problems faced by the system.

Mass Transit Living Lab: Establish the Design Criteria

Students are introduced to the concept of design criteria. Specifically, they determine what functionality the trains on the west corridor must meet to satisfy customer and owner needs. Students discuss what criteria need to be met and use the Mass Transit Living Lab—a web portal to interactive trai...

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Evaluate the design solution using conceptual, physical, and mathematical models at various intervals of the design process in order to check for proper design and to note areas where improvements are needed. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units. (Grade 6) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Functions model situations where one quantity determines another and can be represented algebraically, graphically, and using tables. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Visual displays and summary statistics condense the information in data sets into usable knowledge. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Use information and communication technology tools to gather information from credible sources, analyze findings, and draw conclusions to create and justify an evidence-based scientific explanation (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

  • 1 straight edge or ruler
  • worksheet
  • graph paper or engineering paper, if you do not wish to use the included graph space
  • computer with Internet access

Introduction/Motivation

To better understand how a transit system evolves with time, engineers often graph different system parameters against the time of day that the system is in use. These graphs are helpful to quickly visually analyze design problems and investigate solutions. Graphs are also an important tool engineers use to present technical information to policy makers and the public in a manner that is informative to everyone.

Procedure

  1. Go to http://www.teachengineering.org/livinglabs/index.php > and click to enter the Mass Transit Living Lab to reach the main page of the Mass Transit Living Lab website (see Figure 1)
    Screen capture image of the main Mass Transit Living Lab page.
    Figure 1. The main page of the Mass Transit Living Lab website
  2. Distribute to students the Graphing the West Corridor Data Worksheet (for activity 2).
  3. Present the Introduction/Motivation content to students.
  4. Divide the class into teams of two students each, or have them work individually.
  5. Direct students to work through the worksheet questions.

Attachments

Assessment

Grade the completed worksheets, reviewing student answers to gauge their mastery of the concepts.

Other Related Information

This activity is designed around the Mass Transit Living Lab, a real-time simulation of FasTracks—a real, high-speed rail transit system in the Denver, CO, metropolitan area, as an example for analyzing data about how a light rail system works.

Contributors

Mike Mooney; Stuart Fehr

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Colorado School of Mines

Acknowledgements

This curriculum was created with support from the National Science Foundation. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: May 25, 2017

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