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Innovations Challenge

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The PennDOT Innovations Challenge is a statewide competition that challenges teams of students in ninth through 11th grade to use their problem solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges. Regional winners will be selected from each of PennDOT's 11 Engineering Districts. Those winners will move on to a statewide competition in Harrisburg where an overall winner will be selected.

2017 Challenge

Every hour, about 15 reportable traffic crashes occur in Pennsylvania. Though we have made positive steps toward reducing traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities, a disproportionate number of these crashes involve teenagers. PennDOT is dedicated to promoting safe-driving practices (e.g. no texting, work zone safety, and anti-aggressive driving) through traditional media — like the radio, newspaper, and television — and social media.

Your Challenge: Aside from using traditional paid advertising, marketing, and social media channels, what technologies or innovative methods can be developed in the next five to 10 years to curb unsafe teen driving practices?

Think you have an innovative solution? Give the PennDOT Innovations Challenge your best effort!


Project & Submission Guidelines

Students must work together in teams of three or four to develop their innovative solutions to address the identified challenge.

To enter the competition, teams must submit the title of their innovative solution and a description of no more than 500 words outlining the solution to PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations at Along with the title and description, all submissions must include the following information: team name, full names of team members, faculty mentor name, school district, and county.

The submissions will be reviewed by regional PennDOT offices and up to five team finalists will be invited to present their solutions in person at the PennDOT regional office depending on where their school district is located.

Note: If your team is selected as a district finalist, models, diagrams, videos, and other visual aids or supporting materials should be used as part of your presentation to demonstrate the team's innovative solution to the PennDOT regional office judges. These presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes. One winner will be selected at each PennDOT regional office who will then move on to compete in Harrisburg as part of the statewide competition where one statewide winner will be selected.

The challenge is open to Pennsylvania high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in public, private or charter schools, and homeschooled students.

Family members (that is, siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews) of PennDOT employees are ineligible to enter.


Submissions must be emailed to PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations at by 5 p.m. February 16, 2018.


Process and Timeline

  1. By February 16, 2018, at 5 p.m., submit the title of your innovative solution and a description of no more than 500 words outlining your team's concept to PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations at
  2. By February 28, 2018, PennDOT regional offices will review initial submissions, select up to five finalists, and invite them to the PennDOT regional office to present their innovative solutions to a panel of judges in March 2018. Note: These presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes and include models, diagrams, videos, and other visual aids or supporting materials to demonstrate the team's innovative solution.
  3. By March 31, 2018, each PennDOT regional office will select one winner to travel to Harrisburg in April 2018 to present their innovative solution to the PennDOT Secretary and her panel of judges who will then select a statewide winner.


Each PennDOT regional office's winning team (11 total) members will receive a certificate, and the statewide winner will receive a traveling trophy engraved with the school's name.


Criteria and Judging

  • Effectiveness – 10 points
    • Does the solution apply to the work performed by PennDOT?
    • Could the solution be used by PennDOT without substantial revisions?
    • Does the solution address a problem that can be solved with the technology that is available today or being discussed as possible within the next five to 10 years?
    • Does the solution include a proposal for continued operation (long-term maintenance) after implementation?
  • Benefits to the community – 10 points
    • Does the solution serve the community?
    • Does the solution improve safety to the traveling public?
    • Does the solution improve communications and/or interactions between PennDOT and the community?
  • Cost savings – 10 points
    • Would the solution save Pennsylvania taxpayers or the traveling public money?
    • Does the solution demonstrate indirect cost savings?
    • Are the cost savings sustainable (i.e. does this project save money in the short- or long-term)?
  • Innovation – 10 points
    • Does the solution inspire transportation progress?
    • Does the solution introduce an original or advanced concept?
    • Does the solution introduce a new or advanced product, business model, field, etc.?
  • Presentation – 10 points
    • Were the presentation materials submitted completely?
    • Is the solution presented in a captivating manner?
    • Is the solution presented with clarity and forethought?
    • Did the presenters discuss all aspects of the solution from formulation through execution?
    • Did the group members answer questions from the judges completely, logically, and personably?
    • Did the solution's brief write-up contain a clear, complete, and well-organized summary of the project?


Contact Information

For questions or more information, email PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations at The above project and submission guidelines are also available in PDF format.