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PennDOT announces ‘Innovations Challenge’ for high school students

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has announced students are invited to participate in the sixth annual PennDOT Innovations Challenge, which encourages students to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges in a competition among their peers.

The Innovations Challenge is open to all students in grades nine through 12, regardless of their school’s learning model.

For this year’s challenge, students are asked to develop ideas to help address the shortage of commercial truck parking along major interstate corridors in Pennsylvania.

Trucks parking on highway shoulders and ramps is common during overnight hours and presents a significant safety issue.

As just-in-time deliveries continue to be the mainstay of global business, the demand for truck parking will continue to increase.

Federal hours-of-service regulations require more down time for drivers, which translates into an increased demand for truck parking, and many local governments have strict ordinances against overnight truck parking in their communities.

The challenge asks students to select one of Pennsylvania’s interstate corridors where truck parking is a known issue and develop an innovative approach to increase commercial truck parking availability in that area and offset costs incurred for construction.

The solution must consider local ordinances and zoning laws for the area selected, commercial entity interaction in land development, community impact, restroom facilities, and space requirements for commercial trucks that are generally 70-80 feet long.

“Pennsylvania is a critical freight corridor, and it’s important that commercial drivers have adequate safe parking along our roadway network,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “I’m excited to see the creative ideas that the students bring to this year’s challenge.”

Regional Innovations Challenge winners will be selected and invited to present their solutions to the PennDOT Secretary and a panel of judges, who will determine the statewide winner.

For this year’s challenge, the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors has donated $2,500 and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania has donated $1,500 for a combined total award of $4,000 to the statewide winning team.

“In addition to the challenge itself, we hope that this experience will open students’ minds to the possibility of a career in transportation after graduation, maybe even with PennDOT,” Gramian said.

For complete Innovations Challenge details, visit penndot.gov/innovation and click on Innovations Challenge.

Submission deadline is Jan. 27.