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Technology & STEM

South Fayette students win PennDOT's "Innovation Challenge"

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 5:12 p.m.
Signs that suggest to police a driver might be texting include weaving in traffic, making longer stops, driving at inconsistent speeds and driving with one’s head down.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Signs that suggest to police a driver might be texting include weaving in traffic, making longer stops, driving at inconsistent speeds and driving with one’s head down.

A group of South Fayette students won PennDOT's “Innovations Challenge” by designing an app to help prevent distracted driving.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year's challenge, which asked students 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.

The winning regional team's innovation was to create the “Keep Your Head Up” app to curb Pennsylvania's epidemic of teen distracted driving. Team members Parv Shrivastava, Prateek Jukalkar, Suraj Bokil and Swathi Senthil created an app that would prohibit texting, social media apps and other visual apps to ensure the driver's attention to the road. However, access to emergency calling, GPS and pre-selected music would be enabled through voice-activated commands.

“PennDOT is committed to promoting safe driving practices through traditional media, such as radio, newspaper, television and social media,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “With this year's Innovations Challenge, we wanted students to look at non-traditional methods to foster more innovative approaches to address this issue.”

“The South Fayette STEM Team loves their smart phones, but they don't love that their family and friends engage in distracted driving,” said team mentor and South Fayette English teacher Jim Hausman. “We are grateful to PennDOT for hosting the competition and are diligently working to prepare our final presentation for Harrisburg.”

Regional winners of PennDOT's Innovations Challenge will now move on to compete in the statewide competition on April 24 in Harrisburg.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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