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Turning wrong turns into the right alert system

Two well-dressed students stand in front of a table and a poster.

Jacob Kaltenbronn (pictured), Katy Harlan (pictured), Robert Gallup, Elizabeth Farr and Kaitlin Windsor created a device proposal that would curve wrong way driving for their Transportation Safety course. The assignment requirements happened to meet those of the Traffic Control Device Challenge. Photo courtesy of Carlos Sun.

by Megan Schaltegger

What began as a class project resulted in a major win for five MU Engineering students at this year’s Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington D.C.

Jacob Kaltenbronn, Katy Harlan, Robert Gallup, Elizabeth Farr and Kaitlin Windsor created a device proposal that would curve wrong way driving for their Transportation Safety course. The assignment requirements happened to meet those of the Traffic Control Device Challenge.

“We decided to come up with a notification system, so when somebody would turn the wrong way, it would flash lights at them,” Kaltenbronn said. “When we did a little research, we found out that already existed.”

The group decided to further that concept by adding a siren.

“If people are going the wrong way, they’re probably not paying attention, so a sign or flashing light probably wouldn’t get their attention,” he said. “We decided to add an audible warning to that.”

According to Kaltenbronn, their professor recommended the group submit their proposal to the national competition.

“I believe Mizzou had two groups that went to the national finals,” he said. “We got selected as one of 10 national finalists. We got to take the trip to D.C. to present [our] poster, and from there, we got third place.”

For the contest participants, there was a series of criteria to follow. Ultimately, it came down to the feasibility and implementation of the device.

“I think the main reason our device got selected was the simplicity,” Kaltenbronn said. “A lot of people had really complex ideas that maybe wouldn’t have been as feasible. That’s probably why ours scored as many points as it did.”

The meeting was structured like an open session with finalists putting on a quick presentation as judges wandered from table to table asking questions.

Although, Harlan and Kaltenbronn were the only two available to attend the TRB meeting in D.C., the group’s collective efforts brought them a third-place finish and $500 prize. The team members, who all focused on different sections of the report, split the winnings.

“Obviously, it’s not the most common issue, but it usually results in a head-on collision,” Kaltenbronn said of wrong way driving. “Which is probably the most serious type of collision. It’s definitely a problem.”

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