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Grade 6-8, 9-12

Transportation: They Say We Had a Revolution (Part 3)

Updated: December 30 2015,
Author: Patricia Bonner


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Up to this point in your study of the Transportation Revolution, you have focused on invention, innovation, and infrastructure. In this lesson, you are going to examine the role of incentives.  An incentive is a reward or benefit that motivates people to do something.

Technological advancements (inventions and innovations) depend heavily on economic incentives. While some people invent and innovate just because they are curious and enjoy the process of creating something that is new or different, most inventors and innovators hope to eventually profit financially from their efforts. For some, the goal is to produce and sell a new good or service and boost revenues. For others, the objective is to reduce the cost of production and transportation. In either case, the outcome may be to increase profits.

Private individuals who invest in bridges, roads, and other projects that improve a locale’s infrastructure are also motivated by economic incentives. Most of these people hope to eventually receive a return on their direct investment or on the amount they have invested in stocks, bonds, or the other financial instruments needed to fund transportation ventures.

Governments also have incentives to invest in technology and infrastructure. When the volume of trade and information exchanged speeds up, tax revenue increases. In colonial days, the federal government spent money to improve "post roads" that could be used to deliver mail and military messages. During the 1800s, the federal road and rail projects that encouraged settlement in the West also promoted the nation’s economic development and growth. State and local governments sometimes invest in infrastructure to expand or protect markets.

Task List

You and your classmates will create a timeline of transportation milestones and examine the economic incentives that helped spur them.


Your teacher has given you the year and a few details concerning a transportation milestone that occurred as part of the Transportation Revolution. Research this event and prepare a poster that you can use to tell others what you have discovered. Be sure to include these components:

When. Place the year in which the event occurred at the top of your poster. Other important details related to the time of occurrence can be included in the text at the bottom of the page.
What. Below the year, create a heading of 1-5 words that summarizes the event.

Who. Identify the individuals or people who were the key parties involved in the event. You might identify an individual inventor, an aviator, a group of investors, a business, a government, or a mix of these.

Where. Note the nation (and state, if known) where the event occurred. Include other details on locale in the text at the bottom of the poster.

Why. In a few words tell why the event was important.

Additional information. At the bottom of the poster, provide a few comments that offer more details concerning the event. This type of information would be appropriate:

  • Identify the event as invention, innovation, or improvement in infrastructure.
  • Tell how the invention, innovation, or development in infrastructure changed the movement of people and goods. For example, did it make transport faster, cheaper, safer, or more comfortable?
  • Identify and explain the economic incentives associated with the event.
  • Explain how the event connects with other notable advancements in technology and transportation.

Here is a sample poster and template to help you make a poster that is consistent with those of your classmates. The following web links will help you do the research required to complete your poster:







Transforming an idea into reality as a marketable good or service is a process that rarely occurs overnight! Many things must happen along the way. The transportation timeline you are creating with your classmates will help you to understand this process and the common elements that are required for almost any technology advancement. These include:

  • Evidence that an idea is technically possible and has the potential to be profitable
  • Incentives that encourage people to invest their effort and money into research and development
  • People willing to invest in the idea’s development and supporting infrastructure
  • Technological improvements that make it possible for the resulting good or service to compete with alternatives in the marketplace, for example, by making the goods or services more convenient, more comfortable, safer, or more affordable.

Assessment Activity

Assessment will be based on the poster you create for the class timeline. This rubric suggests evaluation criteria.

Extension Activity

  1. The use of fuels other than petroleum to serve as a source of power for motor vehicles has been an issue of keen interest as our nation moved from the 20th to 21st century. Research the promise and challenge of these alternatives: then predict which alternative fuel you think will power automobiles of the future. These two Wikipedia articles will help you identify current concerns and the alternative fuel possibilities Car Sign:
  1. Paralleling the developments in transportation have been improvements in communication. In fact, you might think of communication advancements as "vehicles" through which one particular kind of product, information, is transported. The speedy exchange of information is vital to market competition and economic growth. Add communication milestones to your timeline. Items to include are milestones concerning the U.S. Postal Service, the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, the Internet, etc. These web links will help you get started:


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3