Students create app to compete in PennDOT’s Innovation Challenge

May 23, 2023 CBS21 By Hallie Jacobs

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation organizes an annual Innovations Challenge for high school students.

Here, they ask students to help them think of creative solutions to problems they are struggling with solving.

In the past they have dealt with litter issues and work zone safety, but this year they asked students to come up with solutions to the shortage of commercial truck parking along interstates.

Students across the state came up with solutions, but one really caught the judges eyes– students from the Intermediate Unit 13 school out of Lancaster.

Six students from the Central Education Center for IU13 combined STEM and teamwork to create an app that would help truck drivers.

PennDOT says truck parking is a huge issue, especially around I-81 and I-83.

“They are not allowed to be on the ramps and on the shoulders,” explained Fritzi Schreffler, the Safety Press Officer for the PA Department of Transportation. “Where do they go if a truck lot is filled?”

To help solve this question, PennDOT turned to students and several at the Central Education Center answered the call.

Andi Fellows, a STEM Teacher at IU13 said, “Doing competitions like this gives them the opportunity to do those things and try. It’s like a real world way of problem solving, working together, communicating, getting through frustrations.”

They created a prototype app called “Find it.”

While showing CBS 21 how the app works, Donovan Adley, one of the students said, “This gives you the time and what date and where to park.”

“It was going to allow you to make reservations at the truck lot. You can find out where there’s going to be a shower and you can reserve your time In that shower. It shows you places where you can get food, you can get gas or diesel,” added Schreffler.

The teachers say they were hands off for a majority of the project.

“They came up with the app idea, they prototyped by drawing out the pages that would actually be on the application itself. They wanted to go to different places to see how truck stops were,” said their classroom teacher Derick Tilburg.

Once they finished, they presented their app to Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Transportation.

Fellows said, “Seeing this room full of people watching our students’ presentations and telling them how great they did was just so cool.”

Although they didn’t win this year’s challenge, the students say they learned a lot and are excited to try again next year.

“My goal for them is to help them grow and to become better people, better professionals in the work world after high school,” finished Tilburg.

Watch CBS21’s video here.