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PennDOT Announces Statewide Innovations Challenge Winner


Harrisburg PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that a team of students from North Allegheny Senior High School, has been selected as the statewide winner for its second Innovations Challenge.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year's challenge, which asked them to look at 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.

"Every day, construction workers on Pennsylvania roadways face a dangerous threat in work zones," said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. "Despite increased enforcement efforts, work zone signage and smartphone alerts, drivers continue to commit traffic violations in work zones, which can lead to crashes or tragically someone being killed. We challenged our next generation of leaders to become an active part of the solution by developing innovative ways to tackle this transportation issue."

The statewide winning team's innovation was the "Safe Drive" app, which would allow users to see their work zone violations in real time. The app's interface would reward drivers with points for good behavior and penalize drivers for violations.

Mentored by Laura Prosser, the statewide winning team members are Isha Das and Leela Pinnamaraju. The department also wishes to acknowledge runner-up entries from North Schuylkill Jr./Sr. High School in PennDOT's Engineering District 5 and Seneca Valley Senior High School in PennDOT's Engineering District 10.

Now in its second year, the PennDOT Innovations Challenge invites high school students in grades nine to 12 to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges. The Innovations Challenge aims to not only help students explore actual transportation challenges that PennDOT is facing, but also open their minds to the very real possibility of working for PennDOT after graduation.

Eleven regional winners were selected from 123 total entries to move on to compete in the statewide competition on April 10 in Harrisburg. Winning teams presented their solution to this year's challenge to Richards and a panel of PennDOT judges who selected the statewide winner.

"My thanks to Isha Das and Leela Pinnamaraju and all of the students for accepting our challenge and offering their innovative solutions, which will help us address the ongoing and tough problem of drivers being reckless in work zones," Richards said. "Engaging these students benefits PennDOT and gives them a taste of potential careers with us."

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MEDIA CONTACT: Jan Huzvar, 717-783-8800

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PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards with North Allegheny Senior High School Students Leela Pinnamaraju and Isha Das.
PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards, left, with North Allegheny Senior High School Students Leela Pinnamaraju, center, and Isha Das.