The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) invited high school students in grades 9-12 to participate in the second PennDOT Innovations Challenge, which encourages students to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges.
This year's Innovations Challenge asks students to look at cost-effective technologies and innovative methods, aside from laws and educational campaigns, that can be developed in the next five to 10 years to get drivers to slow down in work zones.
“Work zone safety continues to be a top priority of the department,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “We remain focused on our efforts to help change driver behavior and raise awareness so all of us, highway workers and motorists alike, arrive home safely every day.”
Every day, construction workers on Pennsylvania roadways face a dangerous threat in work zones. Despite increased enforcement efforts, work zone signage placed miles in advance and smartphone alerts, drivers continue to commit traffic violations in work zones, which sometimes lead to crashes and other dangerous, life-threatening situations, or tragically, someone being killed. There were more than 1,700 work zone-related crashes and 19 fatalities in Pennsylvania last year. Though this is a decrease in crashes from 2016, the fatalities slightly increased.
“Students can offer valuable perspectives to problem-solving,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. “The Innovations Challenge encourages students across Pennsylvania to examine a real-world issue, apply their lens, and present solutions that others may not have considered. This challenge allows students to learn through engagement and the commonwealth to benefit from their innovative solutions.”
The Innovations Challenge aims to not only help students explore real transportation challenges that PennDOT is facing, but also open their minds to the very real possibility of working for PennDOT after graduation.
“Positions such as engineers and equipment operators are key to building, and maintaining Pennsylvania's vast road and bridge network,” said Richards. “However, PennDOT employs more than 11,000 Pennsylvanians from a vast array of educational backgrounds for nearly 400 job classifications.”
Through the PennDOT Innovations Challenge, regional winners will be selected and invited to compete in Harrisburg for the state championship. The statewide winning team will be awarded $1,500 from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) to be divided among team members.
For more information, visit www.penndot.gov/innovation. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31.