Harrisburg PA – Many parents worry about their teens texting while driving, but students throughout Pennsylvania recently took part in a statewide competition to come up with new ways to curb unsafe distracted driving habits.
It’s called the Innovations Challenge by PennDOT, and a team of students from The Haverford School, Montgomery County, were chosen as the statewide winners.
All students in the competition were asked to come up with a unique or unusual project that could be developed within the next 5 to 10 years to prevent or discourage distracted driving.
The winning team developed a plan to use gyroscopic technology already available in most cell phones to detect real-time speed, acceleration and send alerts when unsafe driving practices are detected. Additionally, since the accelerometer can detect lane changes and drifts, it can monitor the frequency and quality of the teen’s driving behavior and focus.
“Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “My personal thanks to all who took part in the PennDOT Innovations Challenge this year. I am impressed by all of the innovative ideas we received to help make Pennsylvania a safer place to be.”
Launched this school year, the PennDOT Innovations Challenge is a statewide competition that called on teams of students in ninth through 11th grade to use their problem solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve a specific real-world transportation challenge.
Students were asked to look at technologies and innovative methods, aside from traditional paid advertising, marketing and social media channels, that can be developed in the next five to 10 years to curb unsafe teen driving practices.
Mentored by Holly Golecki, Upper School Science, Director of Robotics, statewide winning team members include: Yiheng Chen, Micky Fairorth, Aram LaVan and Will Vauclain.
The team’s innovation was a machine-learning based attention analysis tool for use on smartphones that incorporates the device’s existing technology. Using the built-in high-precision accelerometer and gyroscope, the platform can detect real-time speed, acceleration and send alerts when unsafe driving practices are detected. Additionally, since the accelerometer can detect lane changes and drifts, it can monitor the frequency and quality of the teen’s driving behavior and focus.
Seven regional winners were selected from 71 total entries to move on to compete in the statewide competition on April 24 in Harrisburg. Winning teams presented their solution to this year’s challenge to Richards and a panel of PennDOT judges who selected the statewide winner.
“I commend The Haverford School for their innovative solution to this ongoing problem,” Richards said. “I am impressed with their efforts and encouraged for the future knowing that bright young minds share the department’s passion for safety.”
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