North Allegheny students’ ‘Safe Drive’ app wins award from PennDOT |

North Allegheny students’ ‘Safe Drive’ app wins award from PennDOT

Tony LaRussa
PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards, left, poses for photos with North Allegheny students Leela Pinnamaraju, center, and Isha Das in Harrisburg on April 10, 2019. The NA juniors won the transportation agency’s annual Innovation Challenge by creating a smartphone application that lets users monitor their driving while in road construction zones.
A smartphone app created by two students at North Allegheny called “Safe Drive” allows users to observe their work-zone violations in real time. The app won the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s 2nd annual statewide Innovation Challenge.

Two students from North Allegheny Senior High School — Isha Das and Leela Pinnamaraju — are this year’s winners of a statewide challenge to find innovative ways to get drivers to slow down in work zones.

“Every day construction workers on Pennsylvania roadways face a dangerous threat in work zones,” said Leslie S. Richards, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

“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,” Richards said. “ We challenged our next generation of leaders to become an active part of the solution by developing innovative ways to tackle this transportation issue.”

Das and Pinnamaraju, who are both juniors, won the challenge by developing an app called “Safe Drive” that allows users to observe their work-zone violations in real time.

The app’s interface rewards drivers with points for good behavior and penalizes those who commit traffic violations.

“When we first heard about the Innovation Challenge, we felt that we could create an innovation that can positively reinforce the community,” Pinnamaraju said. “We faced many challenges while developing our solution, but due to those challenges, we became more thorough and prepared to create a feasible and effective solution.”

Das said it was an honor to meet the PennDOT leaders and experts during the team’s “journey in this competition.”

“I truly hope that someday I am able to return their gratitude and continue to grow into a future innovator to serve our community,” she said. “As passionate programmers, we were inspired to use our knowledge and integrate new innovative technologies such as machine learning and mobile app to develop our solution.”

The team was mentored by Laura Prosser, a math and computer science teacher at the senior high school.

Students who entered the Innovations Challenge were directed to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges.

The participants also were asked to develop solutions that are not based on enforcing current laws or involve educational campaigns.

“It’s amazing to see our students find solutions to real-life challenges that are impacting others in our society,” said North Allegheny Superintendent Robert Scherrer. “It’s a true testament that the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

“We applaud Isha and Leela’s innovative efforts in making our roadways safer, potentially saving lives, and creating awareness around this important matter,” the superintendent said.

Eleven regional winners were selected from 123 total entries. The regional winners competed in the statewide competition on April 10 in Harrisburg.

Winning teams presented their solution to this year’s challenge to Richards and a panel of PennDOT judges who determined the statewide winner.

The runners up for this year’s competition were from Seneca Valley High School in Butler County and North Schuylkill Jr./Sr. High School in Schuylkill County.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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