College of Engineering News Room
Transportation Bulls Win District Title on Road to International Competition
By Brad Stager
If you think passing the exam required to get a driver's license is hard, consider what the USF Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Student Chapter Traffic Bowl Team had to know when it won the 2017 Florida Section/District 10 ITE (FSITE) Traffic Bowl competition in June.
Questions for the competition covered the design, operation and management of roads and associated transportation systems, and were derived from sources such as the "Highway Safety Manual," "Manual on Traffic Control Devices," and the "Highway Capacity Manual." Topics included traffic sign shapes and color schemes as well as engineering and safety considerations in designing roads.
"We dive into these manuals," says Dr. Seckin Ozkul, who is a research associate faculty at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) and is co-faculty advisor for the USF ITE student chapter and the faculty coach for the traffic bowl team.
Ashok Sampath is one of the USF team members who participated in the FSITE competition. He says the resultant feeling of accomplishment was unlike anything he had previously experienced.
"I feel extremely honored and appreciative to be a part of the USF ITE Traffic Bowl team. Winning the Florida District 10 Traffic Bowl competition was the most memorable moment of my life."
This is the second year in a row that USF has won the FSITE competition. Repeating as the best in the district means a return to the ITE International Collegiate Traffic Bowl, held this year in Toronto, Canada at the end of July as part of the Joint ITE/Canadian ITE (CITE) 2017 Annual Meeting and Exhibit. USF will compete against seven teams from ITE districts in the United States and one team representing Canada. In 2016, USF was eliminated in the semifinal round by eventual Traffic Bowl champion Purdue after two overtime tiebreaker questions.
The winner of each year's ITE International Collegiate Traffic Bowl competition receives a financial prize of $2,000. The bowl format consists of teams with three panelists each competing to correctly answer questions first.
The USF ITE team members are: Manvitha Rajalingola, Kurt Lehmann, Ashok Sampath and Richard Driscoll. They will compete against U.S. collegiate teams from Northeastern, Penn State, Purdue, University of Minnesota, Clemson, Cal Poly and UT at Austin in the Grand Championship.
CUTR Traffic Operations & Safety Program Director Dr. Pei-Sung Lin is the faculty advisor of USF's ITE student chapter. He says the team's achievement is noteworthy.
"We're very proud of our students and very happy for them to go to the national stage and represent USF."
Lin adds that the mentorship he and Dr. Ozkul offer to USF ITE members is a part of their jobs that they gladly undertake.
"We are here to support our students and want our students to succeed, so we provide what we can for them to do that."
Last year's Traffic Bowl was "a real nail-biter," according to Dr. Ozkul, who has coached the USF team for three years. He says the team and other chapter members put in a lot of effort to be ready for the competition.
"We meet once or twice a week from October to May and I encourage them to meet twice or three times a week by themselves."
According to Dr. Ozkul, students divide up responsibility for the source materials to gain in-depth knowledge they can share. They have mock Traffic Bowl rounds among themselves and with Civil and Environmental Engineering and CUTR faculty, complete with a buzzer system, to get more experience.
"We train like we compete," he says.
What made the difference at FSITE, Dr. Ozkul adds, is the "commitment they have to each other and our university. They delivered on that."
Support from the CUTR leadership, including Director and Professor Dr. Robert Bertini, has also been important in the chapter's success says Dr. Ozkul, who views the competition as one means of transforming students into transportation professionals.
"It's an engineer's duty, first and foremost, to make the public's life better. We strive for this day in and day out."
According to its website (usfite.wixsite.com), USF's ITE student chapter was established in 1988 and has more than 80 members. Ashok Sampath says the organization has proven beneficial to him.
"Being a member of the USF student chapter has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have met some amazing professors and students who will be my friends or mentors for a lifetime and whom I can always count on."
Sampath adds that USF ITE membership helps raise students' profiles to industry leaders and hiring managers.
"Meeting the professionals during various events opens up plenty of career opportunities in the transportation profession."
You can learn more about the USF ITE student chapter and its progress at the Traffic Bowl competition by checking its website or visiting USF ITE Student Chapter on Facebook. The organization is inclusive in its membership and is open to students across disciplines who are interested in transportation issues.