Wolf Administration’s “Innovations Challenge” Winners Announced
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced that a team of students from the Monroe Career and Technical Institute in PennDOT’s Allentown-based Engineering District 5 has been selected as the statewide winner for the 2019-2020 Innovations Challenge.
PennDOT also congratulates the second place entry from Seneca Valley High School in PennDOT’s Indiana-based Engineering District 10, and third place entry from Reach Cyber Charter School headquartered in PennDOT’s Engineering District 8,whose students hailed from Clearfield County in PennDOT’s Clearfield-based Engineering District 2 and Lancaster in PennDOT’s Harrisburg-based Engineering District 8.
Since last summer, students in grades nine through 12 have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge, which asked students to look at cost-effective technologies and innovative solutions – aside from laws, programs and educational campaigns – that can be developed in the next five to 10 years to help PennDOT more efficiently, effectively and safely control litter along roadways.
“Our time, resources and money could be better spent in ways other than picking up trash,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “We thank the students and mentors who took on this year’s Innovations Challenge and developed viable solutions that would help address this ongoing challenge.”
Mentored by Ross Ruschman, the statewide winning team members are Kyle Jones and Jason Herrera. Their innovative solution included a website and app called “Pennsylvania Trashout,” that would motivate and award prizes to individuals who find, report and pick up litter, based on the concepts of POKEMON GO™ and Geocaching.
“These student teams can be proud,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We applaud their ingenuity in planning out innovative approaches to motivate Pennsylvanians to clean up litter and stop littering and educate them in the process. “Litter undercuts quality of life and the health of our waters and soil. It also robs us of community improvements, as money that could be spent more beneficially instead goes to trash cleanup on roads and in parks and neighborhoods. Reducing litter is a big challenge that takes this kind of big thinking to meet it.”
Now in its third year, the PennDOT Innovations Challenge invites high school students in grades nine through 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 more than 70 total entries to move on to compete in the statewide competition. Normally held in Harrisburg, this year due to COVID-19, regional winners provided their presentation materials electronically to PennDOT’s panel of judges who determined first, second and third place.
The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) and the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB) organization provided a combined total award of $3,000 that was divided among the first, second and third place statewide winning teams.