Supporting STEM in Houston: Touring METRO Rail Operations Center

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, the SAME STEM Committee organized the third annual field trip for 26 sixth grade students from St. Ambrose Catholic School to the Houston METRO Rail Operations Center.

Vincent Sanders, Lead Transportation Systems Planner for METRO, and Sandra Strickland, Executive assistant to Scott Grogan, Senior Director of Rail Operations, arranged for the students to come and spend half a day learning the behind the scene actions that are done to keep our METRO operations running smoothly.

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The tour started off with a presentation on the history of METRO (The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County), which was presented by Mr. Sanders. His presentation began with a description of what transportation in the Houston area was like in the early days with the horse and cart set up and continued up to the current rail system that is running today. Houston METRO has progressed so much over the years that they were recently rewarded the 2015 ‘Best Transit Agency’ award from American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Following the METRO presentation, the students were taken on a tour of the Operations Control Room. Steve Gaston, Chief Rail Controller – Operations, explained how METRO monitors the rail cars running through the Houston area. The students were shown how the control operators communicate with the rail drivers and passengers waiting at the stations, adjust rail switches to re-route trains around wrecks or problems on tracks, and how to tell if the trains are running on schedule. The students also learned the education and skills one needs to be a control operators.

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After leaving the control room, the students were taken over to the maintenance yard. Mayra Gomez, LRV Electronic Specialist showed the students where they brought the train cars in to do repairs like fix flat spots in the wheels. She also took the students into the operator’s area of a train car that was there being repaired and explained to them the set up inside.

Once all the tours had been completed, the students gathered together in the break room and had lunch. Once the students had finished eating, Melody Clay, our Houston-Galveston Post’s current Young Member Membership Chair, talked with them about her recent graduation from college and the classes they would need to take if they wanted to pursue an engineering degree.

The Houston-Galveston Post STEM Committee would like to send out a big thank you to the METRO staff, Vincent Sanders, Sandra Strickland, Steve Gaston, and Mayra Gomez for giving the tour, and our Committee members Liz Parent, Suzanna Set and Melody Clay for helping out on the field trip.

The STEM Committee will be looking at scheduling another field trip with the St. Ambrose school in fall 2016.

(Contributed by Keri Garner-Hopple, P.E., Houston-Galveston Post STEM Committee Chair;

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