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Student First: Team Including Hopkins Students Wins National Sustainable Transportation Competition
Posted 5/6/22

innovantbots team with dignitaries

Click here to view press release.

A team of six current and former Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) students won this year’s Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition, a national contest for middle school students sponsored by the United States Department of Transportation, Caltrans and other partners. 

The team, InnovantBots, developed a project involving programmable lane-control bollards designed to ease traffic congestion. The idea came from trying to solve a problem one of the students identified during an emergency. 

“One of my teammates went to Florida and a hurricane was going to hit,” said Dhritee Desai, a 7th grade student at Hopkins Junior High and InnovantBot team member. “And they were trying to leave Florida, and nobody was coming back, not a single car, and everybody was jam-packed in the road to leave from Florida, and we thought - hey, we should solve this problem.”

Of course, there are everyday applications of the solution as well.

“If there are more cars going to San José, then there’d be traffic, and the other road coming from San José there’s barely any traffic,” said Desai. “So we want to give one lane going to San José so they can get there faster.”

Some may have seen this basic concept at work on the Golden Gate Bridge, where a Moveable Median Barrier relieves congestion during rush hours. 

The innovation to this concept by InnovantBots is that the team’s project is designed as a programmed solution that moves traffic lanes without human involvement. This method could be faster and safer. 

"It so so fantastic to see kids work together on passions and interests with projects that could potentially make a difference in our lives,” said Hopkins Junior High Principal Corey Brown. “The real-world application of knowledge and skills that is being used at such a high level is amazing to watch. Team InnovantBots is made up of students from various schools in Alameda County. Using some of the tools garnered over the pandemic has allowed them to utilize fresh ways of communicating and collaborating on a project such as this. We are proud of all the students but particularly those representing Hopkins and Fremont Unified."

two students holding certificates with principal
Hopkins Junior High students Aryan Bachu and Dhritee Desai with Principal Corey Brown

Desai and fellow 7th grade Hopkins student Aryan Bachu are among the six members of InnovantBots, who met as students in Fremont Unified School District and were teammates on FIRST LEGO League (FLL), where they won awards for their work together. Since the team formed, four members have moved and now attend school in Danville, Livermore and Pleasanton. 

The team entered the Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition this year. The final step in a process that involved much iteration and consulting with Caltrans on issues such as bollard spacing, wrapped up with the team submitting a video with members presenting their project. 

Judges from transportation agencies, universities and/or others affiliated with the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) of San José State University, which hosts the competition, scored presentations from teams across the country, and awarded InnovantBots the top prize.

On May 2, Executive Director of the Mineta Institute Dr. Karen Philbrick and representatives from Caltrans gathered InnovantBots at Hopkins Junior High to surprise the students with the news that their project won first place and a $1,000 prize, and invited members to the annual MTI awards banquet this summer.


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