Skip to main content
STEM ready

Eco-Friendly Transportation

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

How can we, as transportation engineers, design an eco-friendly transportation system?

Unit Summary:

Innovation is part of TVA’s mission. TVA is embracing electric transportation and developing technologies to encourage the potential for electricity to replace petroleum as the fuel of choice for drivers.

In this PBL, students will analyze and discuss technology innovation along with the role engineers play in developing new energy efficient vehicles. Students will explore the importance of eco-friendly transportation while using ordinary materials to design improved transportation systems.

Hook Event:

Public transportation plays a role in many environmental challenges. Public transportation can help improve air quality by reducing vehicle emission. Most rail transit vehicles emit little to no pollution, and busses using compressed natural gas produce fewer pollutants. How can we, as Transportation Engineers, design an eco-friendly transportation system for our hometown?

Culminating Event:

Students will design a solution to a real-world problem, eco-friendly transportation, and present their design to the class. A rubric will be used to assess mastery.


Science Standards:

5.ETS2.3 Identify how scientific discoveries lead to new and improved technology.

Math Standards:

5.NF.B.5 Interpret multiplication as scaling.

ELA and Other Standards:

5.SL.CC.1 Prepare for collaborative discussions on 5th grade level topics and texts; engage effectively with varied partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing one’s own ideas clearly.

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

 ActivityDescriptionResources and Materials
Activity One


What is the problem? What do you already know? What have others done? What are the constraints?

How can we, as Transportation Engineers, design an eco-friendly transportation system for our hometown?

Have students list all transportation options for their town/city. Have students research and look at transportation systems in various cities around the world.

Look at futuristic public transportation systems:  The Next Level of Public Transport


Poster board

Recycled materials for prototypes

Activity Two


Brainstorm ideas. List possible solutions. Research to find out more. Choose the best solution.

Identify renewable energy sources and research alternate forms of transportation.

Have students look at a city map of their hometown and identify current transportation issues.

List possible solutions for a new and improved transportation system that is eco-friendlier.

Activity Three


Draw a diagram. List supplies you will need. Make a list of the steps you will take.

Students will work in small groups to design a plan for their eco-friendly transportation system.

Using poster board, students will sketch out a labeled design. Designs will need to address the current travel issues and design a new system that will produce less pollutants.  

Consider how transportation systems are designed before finalizing plans:  Why Moving People is Complicated

Activity Four


Follow your plan. Build a prototype. Test your design.

Students will use their labeled designs to create a scaled cardboard prototype and a multi-media presentation. Prototypes will be designed to resemble their transportation system and presentations will need to include the following information:

Current transportation issues

Plan for eco-friendly transportation

How their transportation system is more environmentally friendly than cars, trucks and SUVs

Activity Five


What worked? What didn’t work? Make changes. Redesign and test again! Allow students time to make changes to their design and presentation after initial creation.

Technology Integration: A variety of technology will be used throughout the daily activities. Students will use web-based devices to research transportation systems, student-made systems, and capstone videos.

Community PartnersContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information
TVAEnvironmental information, resources, and career guest speakersWebsite
City Transportation CoordinatorExplain role and discuss transportation concerns 
placeholderLocal Civil Engineer 

Capstone Presentation:

How can we, as Transportation Engineers, design an eco-friendly transportation system for our hometown?

Students will present their final transportation design and explain the anticipated effectiveness of their idea.

Students will create an advertisement to showcase their water transportation system. Students will choose between a billboard, newspaper, or video advertisement. Students will create a catchy name for their transportation system and use graphics to grab the attention of others.

Lesson Resources

The Dollywood Express Train is a great way to see the sights around Dollywood. If you’re interested in alternative modes of transportation, check out this lesson on Eco-friendly Transportation.