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Navigation: ETAP 623 Fall 2017 Section 7619 | Akshar Shastri | Akshar Shastri Mini-Course

Transportation Technology and Science


The transportation of people and freight is one of the most fundamental aspects of society. Although many people interact with vehicles on a daily basis, a large number of individuals do not understand the scientific principles that constrain these systems. Therefore, it is important that all students understand the basic scientific ideas that are the driving force behind the systems that move our people and freight every day. This knowledge will allow students to develop a better understanding about automobiles, and also help students to connect science principles to vehicles in a realistic manner.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of this course, students will be able to:

        1. Explain the key differences between diesel engines and gasoline engines.

        2. Identify the differences between hydraulic and air brakes, and explain why air brakes are used in commercial vehicles.

        3. Identify the emission issues associated with diesel engines, and the methods used to mitigate them.

        4. Explain the different types of trailers that are used to transport freight.

        5. Construct a case-study that investigates an aspect of automotive engineering and science based on the learning in the course.

Needs Assessment & Learner Analysis

    Commercial drivers are at the heart of the American transportation industry. Truck drivers are responsible for delivering freight to our stores, while school bus drivers transport children to educational establishments in local communities. Unfortunately, the population of these workforce groups is declining, causing a shortage of qualified drivers in both industries.

    In 2004, “9.8 billion tons of freight” was transported across the nation (Quinn 39). This volume was an increase from 9.1 billion tons of freight in 2003. Unfortunately, at the time the industry was short 80,000 drivers and it was predicted that the deficit could grow to 200,000 drivers in the future. This issue was compounded by the fact that carriers did not expand “their fleets, largely because they [did not] have enough drivers to fill their open positions—let alone any new ones they [created]” (Quinn 39).

    The shortage of drivers has now grown to approximately 539,000 drivers (Johnson et. al 2). This deficit is paired with a turnover rate in excess of 100% (Johnson et. al 1). Unfortunately, this shortage is not unique to the trucking industry. School districts across the nation are facing a driver shortage as well. In 2015, only 6% of school bus contracting companies had an adequate number of drivers (DeNisco 18).

    Based on these findings, it is imperative that we interest and educate young students about the opportunities that exist in the commercial vehicle space. If we as a society expect to continue transporting freight and school children safely and efficiently, then it is important that we have responsible citizens working in the transportation industry. This can be done using a two-pronged approach.

    The ideal student for this course would be a high school student who is either interested in environment sustainability or the technologies used in commercial vehicles. By dividing these two themes across four units, students will gain an exposure and hopefully an appreciation for the commercial vehicles that surround them every day. Some of them may even be inspired to work as drivers in the commercial vehicle space, or pursue other roles within the segment. This two-pronged approach will also appeal to a wider audience which will help attract a more diverse group of students to the course. High school students who are interested in studying the environmental impact of commercial activities in college would be great candidates for this course. Students who are not interested in a formal college education would also be valuable learners for this course, as this curriculum will teach them some of the fundamental principles they need to know before entering the transportation industry.

    Based on this analysis, the learning objectives for this course will need to be modified to focus more on the commercial vehicle segment. By refactoring the course objectives, the mini-course can focus on learning and career centric goals. This will help students understand and apply the concepts of this course to “real-world” phenomena that they can witness on the nation’s streets and interstate systems.

Task Analysis

Main Course Objective

Students will develop an understanding and appreciation for the concepts associated with the commercial vehicles such as school buses and tractor-trailers that they interact with every day.

Performance Objectives

For this type of course, the ideal setting will have a commercial truck, bus, or school bus present for students to demonstrate and test their knowledge. However, the objectives outlined below are written assuming that this type of resource is not available to the educational facility. The items below can be illustrated on the resource if it happens to be available.

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

    1. Identify the basic components of a commercial truck given a simple diagram of the vehicle. Students should be able to identify about 80% of the parts indicated on the diagram (Unit 1 & Unit 2).

    2. Explain and differentiate between the main categories of freight that are transported across the nation. This would include refrigerated freight, dry van, hazardous material, and intermodal freight (Unit 3).

    3. Discuss the benefits and risks associated with double and triple trailer configurations (Unit 3).

    4. Examine the differences between EGR and SCR emission technology, and explain the characteristics of each system (Unit 4).

Essential Prerequisites

    1. Students should know some of the basic components of a gasoline engine such as pistons and spark plugs.

    2. Students should have a working knowledge of the parts involved in an automotive braking system such as the calipers, rotors, brake pads, and brake lines.

Supportive Prerequisites

    1. Basic observations relating to commercial vehicles will be helpful to students in this course as they will be able to connect their learning to phenomena they have witnessed on the nation’s roadways.

    2. Observations relating to the different trailer types semi-trucks utilize will assist the student with associating the content of the course to the methods used for transporting different types of freight.

Curriculum Map

Please see the following file:

File:Ashastri 2017 Curriculum Map.pdf

About the Author

Akshar 2.jpg

I am currently a Programmer/Analyst at SUNY Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, NY.     I have always been interested in how technology can be applied to the classroom.

While I was in high school, I had the privilege of working with the Information Technology department for the Oneonta City School District. This valuable experience allowed me to see how technology is supported in the academic environment.

I enjoy experimenting with different Linux distributions. I have used the following versions of Linux in the past:


DeNisco, Alison. "Bus Driver Shortage Drives New Incentives." District Administration, vol. 51, no. 11, Nov. 2015, p. 18. EBSCOhost, libproxy.albany.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=110662757&site=ehost-live.

Johnson, James C., et al. "Long Distance Truck Drivers--Their Joys and Frustrations." Journal of Transportation Management, vol. 20, no. 1, Spring2009, pp. 1-20. EBSCOhost, libproxy.albany.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=60103008&site=ehost-live.

Quinn, Matt. "Trucking Industry Faces Driver Shortage." Inc, vol. 26, no. 11, Nov. 2004, p. 39. EBSCOhost, libproxy.albany.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=14660111&site=ehost-live.