Aldine High students begin work on METRO’s design challenge

A group of Aldine High School students pose with METRO employees as they visited METRO to get advice and hands-on experience as they and seven other teams from Aldine ISD participate in METRO’s design challenge.
A group of Aldine High School students pose with METRO employees as they visited METRO to get advice and hands-on experience as they and seven other teams from Aldine ISD participate in METRO’s design challenge.

METRO Houston, in partnership with Aldine ISD, is providing students with a real-world design challenge.

Students in grades 9-12 have been given the opportunity to redesign the Greenspoint METRO Transit Center. Teams from across Aldine will be submitting their design proposals to a panel of reviewers for a chance to earn a spot as one of the top eight teams. Each of the top eight teams will present their design ideas to a panel of experts at Metro’s headquarters downtown.

A group of Aldine High School students in Patrice Craft’s Architecture Design II class are involved in this year’s partnership and had the opportunity to meet with members of the construction and planning department from METRO Houston.

This year’s challenge will be using urban design concepts to re-imagine the Greenspoint Transit Center. Mike Martinez, Public Affairs Director for METRO, provided the students with METRO’s System Map and explained how the bus routes are color-coded based on service frequency. The service frequency for the red route is every 10 – 15 minutes, the blue route is every 20 – 30 minutes and the green route is every 60 minutes. Understanding how the bus routes work will help the students understand the customer’s needs. This knowledge will help the students design their projects with the needs of the customers at the forefront.

Brandie Lockett, Urban Designer for METRO, shared her passion for urban design with the students and discussed how urban design could play into the role of the METRO Transit Center at Greenspoint.

She stated, “Look all around you. Urban design is everything, from the shelters to the lighting, to the plants and shrubs,” Lockett said. “Use your imagination and put yourself in the role of a patron.” The students were excited to be able to converse with her and asked pertinent questions. One student team asked Locket, “We have researched sustainable plants that can be used to both protect the area and used for protection, is this something viable?” She told the students there are many indigenous plants that would do very well in the area for that use and would add to the “green” design.

Students also spoke to Tim Mills, METRO’s Universal Accessibility Director. When asked about working with Aldine students, Mills replied, “I think this is a great opportunity for students to get some hands-on experience. It offers them a real-world opportunity that I never had as a high school student.”

After their conversation with Mills, students were able to get their hands dirty, with that real-world opportunity he spoke of, measuring the areas that they are planning to submit their ideal urban plans.

The students spent an hour on the site of the transit center in teams trying to gather as much data as possible. Each team had specific tasks and responsibilities while on the site. Several students were taking pictures, while others were taking measurements and others were talking with the patrons.

The students made the best of their site visit and all walked away with additional knowledge. According to Brad Kaplan, who has assisted in creating this partnership, “Projects such as this help create strategic partnerships with community and corporate entities. Students have the opportunity to experience real-world scenarios and create a project that may actually impact a part of their own community.”

Martinez spoke highly of the recent collaboration between Aldine ISD students and METRO.

“METRO is very excited to partner with Aldine ISD again this year” Martinez said. “Last year’s project was amazing. To watch the students present and to see their excitement was a positive experience for myself and everyone involved.”

According to Mills, the winning project from last year is in the prototype design phase and should be in fabrication later this year.