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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 12th grade to use their problem-solving, creative, and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges. Regional winners will be selected from PennDOT's Engineering Districts. Those winners will move on to a statewide competition in Harrisburg where an overall winner will be selected.

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2019-20 Challenge

Last year, PennDOT spent nearly $13 million cleaning up roadside litter across Pennsylvania.  In addition, nearly 5,000 volunteers spend countless hours participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program each year.  These dollars and volunteer hours could have otherwise been spent on delivering a better transportation network and making Pennsylvania a better state in which to live.  

Your Challenge: Aside from laws, programs and educational campaigns, what cost-effective, innovative solution can be developed in the next five to 10 years to help PennDOT more efficiently, effectively and safely control litter along roadways?

Your Award: The statewide winning team will be chosen from among regional winning teams across the state. Each PennDOT regional office’s winning team members will receive certificates. The regional winners will be invited to Harrisburg to present their innovative solutions in front of the PennDOT Secretary and a panel of judges. The statewide winning team will receive certificates as well as a traveling trophy and permanent trophy engraved with the school's name. 

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) and the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB) organization are providing a combined total award of $3,000 to be divided among the first, second and third place statewide winning teams.

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

Project & Submission Guidelines

Students must work together in teams (minimum of two up to a maximum of four individuals) to develop their innovative solution that addresses the identified challenge.

To enter the challenge, teams must complete the 2019-2020 PennDOT Innovations Challenge Submission Form, which includes attaching a description of no more than 750 words outlining the innovative solution, its benefits, estimated implementation costs and a funding strategy. Note: Each team must identify a faculty adviser who will need to submit the form on the team’s behalf.

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 a PennDOT regional office depending on where their school district is located. 

Note: If your team is selected as a regional finalist, a PowerPoint presentation (or similar presentation software), consisting of no more than 15 slides must be created. Presentations must be no longer than 15 minutes. In addition, models, diagrams, videos, and other visual aids or supporting materials can be used as part of your presentation to demonstrate your team's innovative solution to the PennDOT regional office judges.

Winners will be selected from PennDOT regional offices; regional winners will 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, juniors, and seniors in public, private or charter schools, and homeschooled students.

Note: PennDOT employees and their family members (siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews) are ineligible to enter.

Deadline

Submissions must be received by PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations by 11:59 PM on December 20, 2019.

Process and Timeline

  1. By December 20, 2019 at 11:59 PM, complete and submit the 2019-2020 PennDOT Innovations Challenge Submission Form to PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations.
  2. By January 24, 2020, 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. Note: These presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes and include a PowerPoint (or similar presentation software), consisting of no more than 15 slides. Models, diagrams, videos, and other visual aids or supporting materials to demonstrate the team's innovative solution can be used as part of your presentation to demonstrate the team's innovative solution to the PennDOT regional office judges.
  3. By February 28, 2020, PennDOT regional offices will select winners to travel to Harrisburg in April 2019 to present their innovative solution to the PennDOT Secretary and a panel of judges who will then select a statewide winner.

Criteria and Judging

  • Effectiveness – 10 points
    • Does the solution holistically address the challenge (safe litter pickup, recycling and disposal)?
    • 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?
    • If applicable, 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?
    • Could the solution be applied at the local government level?
    • Does the solution improve communications and/or interactions between PennDOT and the community?
  • Cost Savings – 10 points 
    • Would the solution save Pennsylvania taxpayers money?
    • Does the solution demonstrate direct and/or 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 introduce an original or advanced concept? 
    • Does the solution have potential to change the way people view and dispose of their litter?
    • 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?

Resources

For additional resources pertaining to roadside liter in Pennsylvania, visit PennDOT's Roadside Beautification webpage.

Contact Information

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