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PennDOT Announces Regional Innovations Challenge Winner

03/04/2021

Montoursville, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that a team of students from the Midd-West School District in Snyder County has been selected as the PennDOT District 3 winner for its fourth Innovations Challenge. 

Mentored by teachers Ed Gunkle and Matt Dietz, team members include Gabriel (Gabe) Drumheller and Isabella (Bella) Parra, both seniors at Midd-West High School.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge that asked students to develop an innovative and implementable solution that helps address Pennsylvania’s transportation revenue shortfall by identifying potential new funding streams, aside from additional gas taxes, tolls or mileage-based user fees, to help ensure adequate transportation funding for the future.

“With vehicles becoming more fuel efficient and electric vehicles becoming more affordable, gasoline-based revenues can no longer generate the funds needed,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “To meet the needs of our aging infrastructure, Pennsylvania needs to establish a funding stream that will inject an additional $5 billion per year into our transportation system.”

The winning regional team’s innovation included multiple solutions to sustain transportation funding including a bike rental program, a required driver education course with a fee and a fair use fee for electric vehicles.

Now in its fourth 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.

"The PennDOT Innovations Challenge is a wonderful teaching and learning experience for students as it requires them to analyze problems, apply their knowledge, and design creative solutions to solve real-world problems impacting their community.  We are extremely proud of the commitment and creativity Bella and Gabe demonstrated to develop useable solutions to combat a challenging problem facing the Commonwealth,” said Gunkle about the Innovations Challenge.

Regional winners will now move on to compete virtually in Harrisburg for the state championship. 

The Transportation Policy and Education Foundation, an educational arm of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC), the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) are providing a combined total award of $5,500 to be divided among the first, second and third place statewide winning teams.

Follow PennDOT on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PennDOTNews and like the department on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PennsylvaniaDepartmentofTransportation and Instagram at www.instagram.com/pensylvaniadot. 


MEDIA CONTACT: Kim Smith, 570-368-4344 or kiasmit@pa.gov 

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