To Game or Not to Game: Teaching Transportation with Board Games webinar sponsored by TRB Committee AHB45


AHB45 Committee on Traffic Flow Theory and Characteristics will host a special webinar on March 19, 11:00 AM EDT on “To Game or Not to Game: Teaching Transportation with Board Games”.
Special webinar supported by the Promotion and Education of TFT Domain to Students, Transportation Agencies, Politicians and Public Using Fun and Cool Methods Subcommittee (PEPSub)
Time: March 19, 11:00 AM EDT
Speaker: Arthur Huang from Valparaiso University
Topic: To Game or Not to Game: Teaching Transportation with Board Games
Webinar at

Heilmeier’s Catechism

I saw a presentation by Prof. Sheldon Jacobson yesterday, and he mentioned following Heilmeier’s Catechism as a criteria for successful NSF proposals. I had not heard of this, so looked it up, and it is worth repeating:
Heilmeier’s Catechism:

A set of questions credited to Heilmeier that anyone proposing a research project or product development effort should be able to answer.

  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What’s new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares?
  • If you’re successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks and the payoffs?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the midterm and final “exams” to check for success?

We have an insufficient number of Catechisms dictating the practicalities of academic research.

To Game or Not to Game: Teaching Transportation Planning with Board Games

Recently published:

Traditional “chalk and talk” teaching in civil engineering is gradually being replaced with active learning that focuses on encouraging students to discover knowledge with innovative pedagogical methods and tools. One interesting such tool is the board game. This research examines the efficacy of adopting transportation board games as a tool in graduate-level transportation planning and transportation economics classes at the University of Minnesota from 2008 to 2011. The Department of Civil Engineering offered these courses with transportation board games on weekday nights. Students were asked to evaluate the effects of the games on their learning and to write self-reflective essays about their findings. The postgame survey revealed that the students’ understanding of the planning process, network deployment, and practical issues, and their ability to form opinions about transportation planning had improved. Student essays on the game economy and its implications on planning further validated that the learning outcomes derived from this game process met the pedagogical goals. This analysis shows that students who are oriented toward learning more on the basis of the visual, sensing, active, or sequential learning styles, with all else being equal, tend to learn more effectively through this approach than those who do not share these learning styles. Overall, this research suggests that properly incorporating board games into the curriculum can enhance students’ learning in transportation planning.

PhDs from the Faculty’s Perspective | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM

Jason Hong talks about PhDs from the Faculty’s Perspective The short version:

  • Break Out of the Undergraduate Mentality
  • Own Your Research
  • Be willing to push back
  • Be active in the social dimension of research.
  • Build Up Your Skills, but Get Out as Soon as You Can

Multi-agent Route Choice Game for Transportation Engineering (working paper)

Xuan Di, Henry Liu, and David Levinson. (2012) Multi-agent Route Choice Game for Transportation Engineering. (Working paper)

In undergraduate transportation engineering courses, traffic assignment is a difficult concept for both instructors to teach and for students to learn, because it involves many mathematical derivations and computations. We have designed a multiplayer game to engage students in the process of learning route choice, so that students can visualize how the traffic gradually reach user equilibrium (UE). For one scenario, we employ a Braess’ Paradox, and explore the phenomenon during the game-play. We have done the case-control and before-after comparisons. The statistical results show that, students who played the game improve their understanding of the Braess’ Paradox more than those who did not play. Among game players, younger students benefit more in their learning; while those who are not comfortable with exploring a phenomenon on their own think this game not as effective as those who prefer hands-on learning experiences.

STREET: Where simulation meets reality | Cultivating Change in the Academy


Recently published:
Huang, Arthur and David Levinson (2012) STREET: Where simulation meets reality Cultivating Change in the Academy (eds. Duin, Ann Hill et al.)

Simulations and games are receiving increasing attention in teaching in higher education. In this context, we developed a series of simulation modules (STREET) in transportation engineering education and applied them in teaching undergraduate and graduate transportation courses at the University of Minnesota. After several years, we contend that they represent an effective pedagogical tool in transportation education. In this chapter we describe our motivation for this work, the program’s development process, dissemination and impacts, and our future work.



At the STREET – Simulating Transportation for Realistic Engineering Education and Training website, we have a new model, ANGIE:

“The Agent-based Network Growth model with Incremental Evolution (ANGIE) models the growth of road networks in several scenarios such as road networks in an artificial grid-like city and the Minneapolis Downtown Skyway network. The philosophy inherent in these models is that accessibility affects road network growth and vice versa. The examples aim to illustrate that different values of accessibility at individual locations can lead to different network topologies.”

The model is what we used on two papers:

We welcome feedback.

The Campus Iconic |

Cross-posted from The Campus Iconic

The Campus Iconic


Education can occur anywhere, in an office building, in a warehouse, or on the internet, but students, their parents, and their employers often prefer higher education on a College or University campus. Faculty like campuses because they are conducive to research. There are other reasons for a traditional campus, among them the signaling model as suggested by Bryan Caplan. Another is that iconic campuses imprint memories, and memories create endowments. This was one of the justifications for building an on-campus stadium at the University of Minnesota, rather than cooperating with the Vikings.







A campus that has the the appurtenances of a classical college: medieval architecture, bricks or stones, a quad, and a bell-tower seems to be preferred. These are the icons of the modern university.

In the Greater Twin Cities, we have been dealt a large number of college campuses. Minneapolis is a college townin a way that most people don’t realize, much like Boston, where more than 10 percent of the population is undergraduates.

I of course work at the University of Minnesota, which is famous for its classical Cass Gilbert quad(apparently derived from Jefferson’s University of Virginia and McKim, Mead, and White’s Columbia University). There are a number of other old buildings, though recent administrations seem allergic to nice architecture, and instead build mediocrity.

St. Thomas University has several campuses, but has achieved a faux medieval branding with its architecture both in St. Paul and in downtown Minneapolis.

The College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University are a bit farther out, stretching the definition of Greater Twin Cities, but both have a lovely campus, especially in autumn.

Metropolitan State University has a main campus east of downtown St. Paul, which is sufficiently iconic that it is the campus logo. Other buildings include some nondescript office buildings in Energy Park and a share of a building in downtown Minneapolis.

The best Twin Cities campus without a college on it isBandana Square, a former railroad maintenance facility that was remodeled and transformed into several uses. The original transformation was to make it a festival marketplace. That did not succeed. Now it is an underutilized facility off of Energy Park Drive, housing the wonderful (but obviously low rent) Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum. This is a set of iconic structures, with room to expand over acres of empty parking spaces. Notably, it is near Metropolitan State, Hamline, Bethel, and Concordia.

There are other similar locations that are underutilized for what they are. The office complex at St. Anthony Main is another example that would make a great, distinct, iconic campus. There are also several vacant breweries around town, though the signaling might be difficult to say you went to school at the old Schmidt’s or Stroh’s Brewery. It would give a new meaning to the idea of imbibing knowledge.

If only there were a growing university that was seeking a new campus in the Twin Cities. There is at least one. It turns out Metropolitan State is seeking a West Metro campus, as it is losing its space in downtown Minneapolis due to internecine warfare with MCTC. It also is seeking to abandon its classroom space in Energy Park (near Bandana Square). Other universities, including other McSCU campuses have been sniffing around, as it is already university-ready and centrally located. MnSCU really needs to be strategic about its universities and colleges and their territories, in a way that it currently isn’t. Why are MSU-Mankato and St. Cloud State opening up Metro campuses? Why are they not one Minnesota State University with multiple campuses and departments?

As part of my CE5212 class last Fall, student groups were tasked with finding the location for alternative campuses of Metropolitan State. They were given the job of finding the location if there were (a) 1 campus, (b) 2 campuses, but one was fixed at the current St. Paul main location, and (c) 4 campuses, but one was fixed. Each group came up with different locations.

This is interesting for a variety of reasons. There was more convergence on the 3 additional sites than on the one “west metro” site. While an analytic /computational geography approach can help, the differences between various nearby sites are relatively small, and small differences in the optimization criteria can shift the location. In any event, modeling optimization for student travel times is never the deciding factor in something like this (or otherwise, almost everything would locate on a point). Prices, building availability, history, culture, etc. also play a role. A growth trajectory also matters (you want to locate your second campus in a place that makes sense if you also have a third and fourth).

Clearly there should be some semblance of image in locating a college campus. Do you want your university in an office building? If so, you can have it. It takes more work, some thought, and a lot of patience, to cultivate an iconic campus.

Single site West North, South, West Method
Group 1 Prospect Park Minneapolis CBD West Mounds View, Bloomington/Richfield, Minneapolis CBD West Location-Allocation
Group 2 Snelling Avenue Golden Valley Blaine: Central and Main NE, Bloomington: I35W/98th, Plymouth: 169/42nd 20 minute Accessibility Max
Group 3 Elliot Park Edina Mounds View, Edina, Minneapolis Location-Allocation

Images from Cass Gilbert society, and wikipedia, and author.

Where else should new college campuses think about locating in Minnesota? What colleges should locate there?