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PennDOT Announces Regional Innovations Challenge Winner

02/26/2020

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

Team members include Chase Strohecker, Elias Swartz and Reid Dunkelberger, and were mentored by teachers Matt Dietz and Ed Gunkle.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s 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?

“Last year, PennDOT spent nearly $13 million cleaning up roadside litter across Pennsylvania,” said Acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “These dollars could have otherwise been spent on delivering a better transportation network and making Pennsylvania a better state in which to live.” 

The winning regional team’s innovation was the Automatic Roadside Cleaner (ARC), a rechargeable automated robot controlled through satellite GPS that would effectively clean up litter along the roads as well as disposing it into designated dumping areas.

Now in its third 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.

"Students really benefit from opportunities like the PennDOT Innovations Challenge. They apply the skills learned in class as well as research and employ new technologies and concepts to solve real-world problems. It is very satisfying as an instructor to see students invested in their learning,” said Dietz about the experience.

Gunkle added "The PennDOT Innovations Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in a real-world problem-solving scenario.  It's exciting to see students work through the stages of researching and developing an idea and then creating a prototype and presentation for a panel of judges.  We are proud of the commitment and effort these students showed throughout." 

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

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.

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, 570-337-8802 or kiasmit@pa.gov

Editor’s Note: Attached Photo Caption: PennDOT’s Innovations Challenge regional winners from District 3 from left: Chase Strohecker, Elias Swartz and Reid Dunkelberger, representing Midd-West High School with their “ARC” prototype.

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