Protecting Pedestrians, Connecting Cars, and Making Roads Safer: Middle School Students Shape the Future

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Sixteen teams of middle schoolers solve real-world problems to win the national Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition
April 30, 2024
San José, CA

Three teams of middle school students have won the national Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition by offering relevant solutions to real-world transportation problems. The Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program was first launched by the United States Department of Transportation to inspire students to choose careers in transportation. The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has sponsored a competition annually since 2001. The competition facilitates a partnership between the middle school participants and a transportation industry professional to empower students to address an issue pertaining to a new theme each year. This year, students presented solutions to prompts about Vision Zero, an international goal to eliminate traffic fatalities. 

“Transportation is a critical infrastructure that keeps our nation running, and it is important for the future of this infrastructure and our communities to inspire interest in the transportation industry in young people, to show them they can be a part of something that is vital to everyone’s health and well-being,” says MTI Executive Director Dr. Karen Philbrick. 

This year’s winning teams are:

  • 1st Place - Kennedy Middle School, Cupertino, CA

Project: Hexa-Grooves for a Safer Future

  • 2nd Place - William Hopkins Middle School - Team D, Fremont, CA

Project: Protecting Pedestrians at Night

  • 3rd Place - Peter Hansen & Julius Cordes Elementary Schools, Mountain House, CA

Project: DriveLink - The Technology Connecting Thousands of Cars Daily


U.S. Department of Transportation Director of the Office of Research, Development, and Technology, Dr. Firas Ibrahim, keynote speaker for the winner announcement, said of the program, “I was impressed by the innovations of, and by the 6-8th grade stars. Not only did they come up with ideas that are transformative and relevant today but they also demonstrated strong communication and leadership skills. [This program] will help build a strong supply chain of transportation talents to help us achieve our DOT goals.”

Students worked together to research and present an argument, ultimately winning cash prizes and plaques of recognition. Students learn valuable skills, have fun, and build confidence.

Students from William Hopkins Middle School - Team D from Fremont, CA, who won 2nd place this year, described their participation, “It pushed us to think creatively about modeling our solution and effectively communicating our ideas. Our work didn’t just teach us about traffic safety patterns; it managed to instill fundamental and valuable life lessons.”

The Garrett Morgan Competition has a new theme every year. Read more about the competition and learn how to participate here.



At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is a university transportation center funded by the US Department of Transportation, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


The Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition was instituted by former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater to encourage young people to consider careers in transportation. The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has sponsored a competition every year since 2001. This competition is open to middle school classes, clubs, after-school programs, and any other youth-serving organizations.


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