PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations (BOI) hosted it's fifth annual
Innovations Challenge earlier this year. The Innovations Challenge is a statewide competition that challenges teams of students in ninth through 12th grade to use their problem-solving, creative, and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges.
The challenge is part of PennDOT's ongoing mission to bridge technology and generational gaps by integrating a variety of convenient and affordable public engagement tools to broaden its reach and ensure all demographics are engaged in the transportation planning and project development process.
"The Innovations Challenge is a great way to open students' minds to a career in transportation after graduation," said Anja Walker, State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) manager and statewide Innovations Challenge coordinator, in BOI.
This year's challenge asked students to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective public engagement strategy, beyond the current public engagement procedures, outlining innovative technologies and tools that PennDOT can implement to more effectively engage and connect with all age groups during the transportation planning and project development process.
The competition is judged, first, at the regional level. Then, regional winners advance to the statewide level and present their solutions to the PennDOT Secretary and a panel of judges. Innovations are judged on effectiveness, public outreach and benefits to the community, cost-effectiveness, innovation, and the presentation itself.
This year, PennDOT received more than 30 entries from 12 schools in seven districts across the commonwealth. Each district chose up to five entries to present during a regional competition. The regional winners then moved on to the statewide competition, which was held virtually on April 12.
The statewide winners from Monroe Career & Technical Institute in Bartonsville, Pa., proposed their PaE3 program, which is designed to help communities become "Excited, Educated and Engaged" about PennDOT projects. The purpose of the program is to bridge the gap in communication between PennDOT and its stakeholders. It uses existing technologies, including applications like
Google Maps, to provide notifications about proposed road work projects.
The winning team received two trophies, a traveling one and a permanent one with their school name engraved. They also won $4,000 from the Transportation Policy and Education Foundation, an educational arm of the
Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC) organization and the
American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA), which was divided among the winning team members.
Other regional winners included:
PennDOT Community Hub app, proposed by a team of students from Reach Cyber Charter School, based in Dauphin County. The app integrates all of the digital services and resources PennDOT provides into one application.
Public Engagement Efficiency plan, proposed by a team of students from Downingtown High School East in Chester County. The plan aims to bridge divides and connect with all demographics by deploying surveys in various locations.
Rate-A-Ride app, proposed by a team of students from North Pocono High School in Lackawanna County. The app allows for bus passengers to provide feedback about their experience.
For more information, visit the
Innovations Challenge page on PennDOT's website.