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Students get firsthand STEM experience with JTA’s autonomous vehicle

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

Dec. 10, 2019 - A bus full of eager students piled off of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s bus ready for an exciting field trip. 

“I’m so excited. It was fun because no one ever saw a car like this before,” said Timothy Cannon, a 4th Grade student.

Saint Clair Evans Academy 4th and 5th graders got a chance to experience “the future” at JTA’s autonomous vehicle test track.

“You will see it in the future,” said Jayden Paylor, a 4th Grade Student.

JTA is testing out their autonomous vehicle called the “Ultimate Urban Circulator.” With a partnership between JTA and Duval County Public Schools, students are among the first to take it out for a spin.

“I remember when I was a kid it was all about ‘imagine this, imagine that, use your imagination.’ This is the future it’s here,” said Feldman, Dir. of U2C Programs.

The vehicle doesn’t have a driver, a pedal or a steering wheel.

“It’s very interesting to see folks step into a vehicle and the first thing they look for is a driver seat, a passenger seat, a steering wheel, and a break pedal, and all the regular stuff in an automobile and none of it’s there,” Feldman said.

The students learned real life STEM skills.

“We want to make sure that the kids have an opportunity to see all of the technology that’s happening out there. They have the opportunity to feel it, touch it, and smell it, and that they don’t feel left out regardless of where they are and what neighborhood they come from,” said Bernard Schmidt, JTA Vice President of Automation.

Fourth grade student, Cannon said, “It’ll help you because it’s technology and technology is science."

JTA’s director of U2C Programs, Michael Feldman, gets to show kids how the car works when schools bring their students for field trips. Feldman hopes the students take whatever they learn and apply it to school.

“It should show them that the opportunities exist to not only leverage what they’re learning in school, but to get them to think creatively and outside of the box and leverage their imagination,” said Feldman.

Fourth grade student Jayden Paylor said, “I think it’s cool because it moved by itself and you don’t have to control it, it just goes by itself.”

The vehicles won’t hit the streets of Jacksonville until nearly three years from now, but its already setting up this generation for what could become their new normal.

“These kids even though that they’re young and 4th and 5th graders out here today, they are the future for tomorrow,” said Feldman.


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