Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics

Advancing STEM Education Through Transportation Studies (ASETTS)

Advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Education Through Transportation Studies (ASETTS) is a digital badge program designed to encourage and enable undergraduate students to advance their knowledge in STEM core subject skills. The ASETTS program seeks to accomplish this goal by establishing mentorship programs, incorporating engaging experiential learning activities in courses, offering research opportunities and scholarships and increasing students’ exposure to transportation career opportunities through a range of hands-on, experiential activities. The ASETTS program strives to connect students to researchers, professionals, and alumni in STEM‐related fields, who are currently working in transportation careers, and awards students extra credentials to increase their marketability to secure employment after graduation.

Digital badges are certified indicators of a student’s accomplishment and skill in a specific area that they can include on their resume to assure potential employers of a level of competency and possession of core knowledge. Like a school transcript, digital badges provide credentialing for a person that includes detailed information about the requirement the student had to meet to earn the badge.

 Flow chart showing ASETT badges and sample activities

In ASETTS, students earn points toward specific digital badges upon completing various activities. Some examples include:

  • Participation in transportation-related field trips
  • Participation in transportation competitions
  • Attendance at transportation conferences, workshops or symposiums
  • Engaging in transportation-related mentorship or community volunteer opportunities
  • Attendance at transportation-related student organization meetings and campus events.

A student can sign up for the ASETTS program by downloading the app to their phone. Once enrolled, students receive text and email notifications with information about upcoming opportunities to earn points. Within the app, they can also upload required assignments, track their individual progress and points, scan QR codes for proof of participation in events, and communicate directly with administrators of the program.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Institute of Transportation Engineers will endorse the awarded badges, and the supporting agencies will be involved in creating, reviewing, and providing opportunities for ASETTS participants. Badges will be “stackable” and consist of different levels of achievement depending on the student's effort and the number of hours invested.

Maranda McBride, Ph.D., professor of management in the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics, along with the College of Engineering’s Hyoshin Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of computational data science and engineering, and Venktesh Pandey, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering, proposed the transportation digital badge program and received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement it. Their proposal was in response to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Historically Black College and University Undergraduate Program Targeted Infusion Project (HBCU-UP TIP). The ASETTS program was initiated in September 2021 and is funded for two years.

Historically and currently, the demand for people with managerial, technical and STEM skills far exceeds the supply in the transportation field. The transportation industry faces workforce shortage challenges because of demographic changes, new technologies and more diverse skills required. According to the Transportation Research Board’s Steps for Transportation Workforce Diversity Outlined in TRB’s Research,:

“As our systems become more technologically complex, the future workforce will need higher skill levels, a more diverse base of disciplinary perspectives, and adaptability.”

It is the goal of the ASETTS program to help recruit and prepare students to meet future workforce needs.

Go here to enroll in the ASETTS program.