Hands-on Activity: Mass Transit Living Lab: Analyze the Data

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

Quick Look

Grade Level: 10 (9-12)

Time Required: 15 minutes

Expendable Cost/Group: US $0.00

(See the Materials List for details.)

Group Size: 2

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

Attention: This activity requires the following resource:


A man in a suit holds a hand rail as he steps into a train car.
Students explore real-life transit data
Copyright © Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation http://www.fta.dot.gov/about/region8_11994.html


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. Students discuss the flaws that they find in the system. This activity requires the use of the Mass Transit Living Lab—a web portal to interactive train 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:

  • Analyze a graph for critical areas and be able to explain in words what is happening in the graph.
  • Critically examine a flow rate system for congestion and identify whether or not the system is meeting the original design criteria.

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.

  • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View 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 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Students each need a worksheet and pencil.

Teams each need a computer with Internet access to the following webpage: http://www.teachengineering.org/livinglabs/fastracks/.

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/csm_lesson1_activity3_tg] to print or download.

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: Graphing the West Corridor Data

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.

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...


An essential part of an engineer's skill set is to be able to systematically analyze a design or system that is already in place and identify any areas that need improvement.

The first step to solving an engineering challenge is to identify it and the factors that are contributing to it. Only after the problem has been fully understood can an engineer effectively move toward finding solutions to the problem.


  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 Analyze the Data Worksheet (for activity 3).
  3. Present the Introduction/Motivation content to students.
  4. Divide the class into teams of two students each, or have them work individually.
  5. Ask students to work through the worksheet questions.
  6. As a class, discuss the answers developed by individual groups.


Grade the completed worksheets, reviewing student answers to gauge their comprehension 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.


Mike Mooney; Stuart Fehr


© 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


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: March 20, 2019


Free K-12 standards-aligned STEM curriculum for educators everywhere.
Find more at TeachEngineering.org