Four Purdue College of Engineering first-year students took the grand prize as Team TRAWS in the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge — a $10,000 award and the opportunity to pilot their innovative solution in West Lafayette. The competition called on startups and student teams to develop a scalable Internet of Things (IoT) solution or software application to improve safety for vulnerable road users during high-traffic periods.
Team TRAWS — or Traffic Real-time Analysis Weather System — was advised by Sean Brophy, Purdue associate professor of engineering education. It was led by students Sid Gaur (from Reno, Nevada); Atharva Rao (from Phoenix); Benjamin John Leith Murray (from Apex, North Carolina); and Joachim Tobias Velasco Bautista (from Binan, Philippines).
After advancing to the third and final phase of the competition, TRAWS earned the unique opportunity to run a six-month pilot in the Discovery Park District at Purdue. All four students also secured a one-year membership in the NineTwelve Convergence Lab. TRAWS’ solution emerged as the most scalable and promising idea that could help reduce traffic accidents and injuries. Their solution involves using a sensor array to detect and analyze roadway and pathway activity and congestion, and then to provide information back to roadway users through “smart” road signs to raise awareness of specific safety and congestion situations.
“Based on the ingenuity and engineering spirit we have seen so far from these outstanding Purdue students, we’re excited to see how TRAWS executes their solution during the next phase in a real-world deployment,” said Troy Hege, vice president of innovation and technology at Purdue Research Foundation. “We think the concepts of a broadly deployed smart road sign platform have a lot of potential, so we are interested to see where this goes.”
The viability and potential impact of TRAWS’ solution convinced the Challenge Committee during the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge Demo Day, where TRAWS demonstrated its prototype. The Challenge Committee included subject matter experts from technology companies, who also served as mentors for the three finalist teams during the prototyping phase.