PennDOT Announces Regional Innovations Challenge Winner

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that a team of students from the North Pocono School District, in Lackawanna County has been selected as the PennDOT District 04 winner for its fifth Innovations Challenge.

Mentored by Nathan Jones, advisor, North Pocono Trojans Engineering team members include Daniel Pierzchala, Mason Natalini, Aaron Witherite, and Logan Alefantis.

Now in its fifth 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.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge. Taking Pennsylvania’s diverse demographics into consideration, this year’s Innovations Challenge asked students to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective public engagement strategy, beyond the current public engagement procedures (outlined in detail in Publication 295) that uses innovative technologies and tools that PennDOT can implement to more effectively engage and connect with all age groups during the transportation planning and project development process.  

“Public engagement is vital to PennDOT’s transportation planning and project development efforts,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “However, it can be challenging to bridge technology and generational gaps to ensure everyone is engaged and involved as we plan for transportation improvements.”

The winning regional team’s innovation was Rate-A-Ride.

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

For this year’s challenge, the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC) and the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) are providing a combined total award of $4,000 to the statewide winning team.

For complete Innovations Challenge details, visit and click on Innovations Challenge.

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