K-12 STEM Program: Exploring the Science of Retroreflectivity

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations are growing faster than other occupations. However, U.S. students’ math and science scores are lagging behind other developing countries. In addition, in-class academic concepts can seem abstract with little relevance to a student’s life. There is a need for in-class curriculum that links academic concepts with real-world STEM applications. Over the past 10 years, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) researchers have developed many educational activities for elementary and middle school students (K-8) that provide an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and insight into what transportation engineering and other STEM careers have to offer. In 2011, a TTI researcher taught approximately 300 fifth graders about the scientific principles behind reflection, refraction, and retroreflectivity through a brief history of sign sheeting, hands-on activities, and a laboratory exercise. This educational development project will take these initial in-class activities that show real-world applications, link them to academic concepts and standards, and create curriculum and associated materials that can be used by teachers and other professionals across the nation. To get the students thinking about the future of transportation, the relationship between traffic control devices (e.g., signs and pavement markings) and automated vehicles will also be included in the curriculum.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $109465
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Safety through Disruption University Transportation Center (Safe-D)

    Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
    Blacksburg, VA  United States  24060
  • Project Managers:

    Glenn, Eric

  • Performing Organizations:

    Texas Transportation Institute

    Texas A&M University System
    3135 TAMU
    College Station, TX  United States  77843-3135
  • Principal Investigators:

    Finley, Melisa

  • Start Date: 20170401
  • Expected Completion Date: 20220622
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

  • TRT Terms: Transportation
  • Subject Areas: Design; Highways; Safety and Human Factors; ROAD SAFETY DEVICES;

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01681412
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Safety through Disruption University Transportation Center (Safe-D)
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747115
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Sep 20 2018 9:59PM