Norwin High School Students Win Statewide Innovation Challenge with Sustainable Roadway Design

Norwin High SchoolPennDOT Secretary Michael Carroll, left, presents certificates to the Innovations Challenge team from Norwin High School, from left, adviser Thomas Harskowitch, Noah Wilson and Troy Horvath. /Submitted Image

HARRISBURG, PA — In an inspiring display of ingenuity and forward-thinking, a team of students from Norwin High School in Irwin, Westmoreland County, has clinched the top spot in the 2024 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Innovations Challenge. The competition tasked students with reimagining the future of multi-lane roadways, emphasizing community reconnection, sustainable design, and infrastructure that serves both current and future generations.

Under the guidance of their mentor, Thomas Harskowitch, team members Troy Horvath and Noah Wilson proposed a comprehensive plan that not only addressed the challenge’s criteria but also showcased a deep understanding of environmentally responsible urban planning. Their proposal included the creation of a green pathway adjacent to the roadway, offering space for community gatherings, diverse plant life, effective stormwater management, and improved air quality.

The students envisioned a roadway that would knit previously divided neighborhoods back together, not just by accommodating vehicles, but by prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle traffic. This approach reflects a broader shift towards creating more livable, accessible urban spaces that encourage walking and cycling, both for health and environmental benefits.

Their plan goes further, incorporating mixed-use zoning around the project area to spur new business development while ensuring the seamless flow of traffic. Such zoning practices are key to developing vibrant, dynamic urban areas that cater to a variety of needs and activities.

PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll praised the winning team for their innovative thinking and the relevance of their project to Pennsylvania’s future infrastructure challenges. “As roadways across Pennsylvania come to an end of their useful lifecycle, how we choose to design and reutilize those spaces will be crucial to ensuring equitable and sustainable infrastructure for generations to come,” Carroll stated. He expressed his excitement about the potential impact such young problem solvers could have on shaping the future.

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The Innovations Challenge aims to engage students in real-world problem-solving, encouraging them to apply their knowledge and creativity to address pressing infrastructure and transportation issues. Eight regional winners were initially selected and invited to present their solutions to a panel of judges in Harrisburg, culminating in the selection of the Norwin High School team as the statewide winner.

This year, the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC) and the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) contributed a combined total of $4,000 in awards to the winning team, underscoring the industry’s support for innovative approaches to infrastructure challenges.

The success of the Norwin High School team in the 2024 Innovations Challenge highlights the critical role of the next generation in driving sustainable, community-focused urban development. It also emphasizes the importance of educational initiatives that bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical, impactful solutions to societal challenges.

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