FULL - Tracks to the Future: Railroad Transport and Engineering Camp

Camp is FULL for Summer 2024.
Application is OPEN for Summer 2024. Register Now.
Application is CLOSED for Summer 2024.
This is an INVITE-ONLY camp.
Application is TBA for Summer 2024. Check back soon.

Age Group: 9th - 12th


  • Residential: Free (grant funded)
  • Commuter:
  • Virtual:
  • Day Camp:

Category: 3-D Sessions


  • June 24 - 29

Residence Hall:

Scholarships: Yes, see details No

Campers standing on stage, displaying their certificates
2022 Campers with their certificates

NOTE: This camp is organized by Michigan Technological University. For questions about this particular camp, contact rail@mtu.edu.

Students apply to this camp through Michigan Technological University, which hosts the online component in conjunction with Illinois.

Accepted campers are then placed in the residential component here through the Michigan Tech University application process.

2024 Tracks to the Future webpage and application

The 2024 deadline is March 15, or until all camp slots at Illinois are filled. Contact rail@mtu.edu for more questions. Need-based travel support may be available.

This summer event is open to high school students who will be enrolled in grades 9-12 in Fall 2024. Hybrid activities include virtual classrooms, travel to host Universities, and engaging in activities like field visits at the host University.

Students learn that railroads are a high-tech and environmentally sensitive transportation mode. Railroads remain the most energy-efficient mode of transportation. Participants engage with faculty at Universities from across the country to uncover what forms modern railroad track, explore equipment from around the globe, and analyze communication and control systems.

Program Schedule

Monday and Tuesday

This hybrid program will start with two days of virtual live classroom instruction and hands-on activities on Monday and Tuesday. Each student will conduct these from their home or another location with computer and internet access (we will send each participant a package of materials to use!).


Wednesday will be a travel day to the host university.

Thursday and Friday

The session will continue on Thursday and Friday at one of our university host locations. There are ten different alternatives for students to choose from (we will do our best to assign students to their preferred location).

Locations for Session 2:

  • Michigan Tech, Houghton
  • University of District of Columbia
  • University of Illinois-Champaign
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia
  • California State University, Fresno
  • University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis
  • North Dakota State University, Fargo 

The university portion of the program will feature hands-on activities and rail industry field trips. Lodging is provided for Wednesday and Thursday nights on the campus of the selected university. Friday night lodging can be provided for those unable to leave after program commencement on Friday upon request. 

This program is covered by an FRA Grant, which includes all program materials, plus lodging and meals for the on-site portion. Students will be responsible for travel to the assigned university location.

Supported by

Tracks to the Future is supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration.

Partnering Universities

Michigan Technological University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, PennState Altoona, Fresno State, The University of New Mexico, and University of South Carolina.

This is a Pathway Program of Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs.



J. Riley Edwards, Ph.D., P.E., is an Assistant Professor in the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois).  He obtained his BS degree in Civil Engineering from Vanderbilt University, and his MS and PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Dr. Edwards has worked for both CN and Hanson Professional Services, Inc. which included serving as a Construction Engineer on BNSF Railway’s Memphis Intermodal Expansion project.  Since 2007, Dr. Edwards has held various positions in RailTEC at Illinois where he oversees rail infrastructure research and advises graduate and undergraduate students concentrating in rail engineering.  His research interests are railway track and component design and performance. His research interests are railway infrastructure track system and component design and performance and failure modes associated with infrastructure components. His projects span from rail transit to heavy axle load (HAL) freight railroad applications.

NOTE: Staff listed above are for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign residential component only.

Frequently Asked Questions