Begin Main Content Area

PennDOT Announces Regional Innovations Challenge Winner


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that a team of students from the Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy in Erie has been selected as the PennDOT District 1 winner for its fifth Innovations Challenge.

Mentored by James Fleming, team members include Zoe Barron, Isabella Zewes, and Pasya Kashindi.

Now in its fifth year, the PennDOT Innovations Challenge invites high school students in grades 9-12 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.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge. Taking Pennsylvania’s diverse demographics into consideration, this year’s Innovations Challenge asked students to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective public engagement strategy, beyond the current public engagement procedures (outlined in detail in Publication 295) that uses 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. 

“Public engagement is vital to PennDOT’s transportation planning and project development efforts,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “However, it can be challenging to bridge technology and generational gaps to ensure everyone is engaged and involved as we plan for transportation improvements.”

The winning regional team’s innovation was a “One Stop Shop” app for customers to access PennDOT services and information. Some features in the proposed app include a live chat with a PennDOT representative, a calendar with upcoming public meetings or events, and a log to record personal vehicle maintenance information. 

“We were impressed with all of the ideas submitted by the northwest region students to enhance public engagement statewide,” said PennDOT District 1 Executive Brian McNulty, P.E. “Their unique perspective on our current processes is invaluable and allows us to understand how we can better meet the needs of our customers.”

Regional winners will now move on to compete for the state championship with other schools through virtual meetings with PennDOT executives based in Harrisburg.

For this year’s challenge, the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC) and the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) are providing a combined total award of $4,000 to the statewide winning team.

For complete Innovations Challenge details, visit and click on Innovations Challenge.

Subscribe to PennDOT news and traffic alerts in Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties at

Follow local PennDOT news on Twitter and like the department on Facebook.


MEDIA CONTACT: Saxon Daugherty, 814-678-7095


# # #