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Challenge accepted

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently announced that two students from the Seneca Valley School District placed second in the Innovations Challenge State Championship in Harrisburg, PA on April 10.

Mentored by Dean Walker, team members include senior Caroline Cohen and junior Kevin Karatassos.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year's challenge, which asked students to look at innovative methods, aside from laws and educational campaigns, that can be developed in the next five to 10 years to get drivers to slow down in work zones.

"Every day, construction workers on Pennsylvania roadways face a dangerous threat in work zones," said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. "Despite increased enforcement efforts, work zone signage and smartphone alerts, drivers continue to commit traffic violations in work zones, which can lead to crashes or tragically someone being killed. We challenged our next generation of leaders to become an active part of the solution by developing innovative ways to tackle this transportation issue."

SV’s innovation was a utilization of reusable non-Newtonian, fluid-filled "smart" speed bumps that would react like a solid when impacted by vehicles traveling over 55 MPH.

Their idea was selected as the PennDOT District 10 regional winner for its second Innovations Challenge and allowed them to move on to compete in Harrisburg for the state championship.

“I’m very happy with the growth these students underwent,” stated Dean Walker, senior high school gifted support teacher. “Their work demonstrates a strong ability to make connections and gain a rich understanding of the engineering design cycle. I won’t be surprised if I see their idea in action on the roads in the near future!”

Now in its second 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.

PennDOT Challenge Winners

Pictured above L-R: Junior Kevin Karatassos and Senior Caroline Cohen with PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Administration Suzanne Itzko