A group of high school friends led by Michael Zhou, a senior at Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama, got together to develop a concept design with safety implications that would alert drivers when students were crossing a road or using crosswalks.
The high school student team, which included three other friends (Eric Mao, senior; Nikitha Sridhar, senior; Joy Zou, senior), won 3rd place for the concept design at the 2019 TRB TCD Challenge along with the American Traffic Safety Association.
“We thought about students in our school who walked to school,” Michael said. “What are the dangers there and what safety measures are there, and how can we can improve it.”
To come up with the idea, the students read research articles on pedestrian safety and connected vehicles, and then realized that perhaps they could use their student identification cards as a mechanism to send alerts to approaching vehicles.
“And then we thought about our cards, depending on the reader then we could locate the students,” he said. “From there we read about readers and how we could implement something that could alert drivers to pedestrians.”
Michael explained that their student cards have chips that could interact with radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors that could be placed along side of roads or crosswalks and detect the students crossing the street.
“The idea would be that it could be integrated in to some sort of lower levels of automation contributing to connected vehicles environment,” said Michael.
Michael is not new to engineering. His father, Dr. Huaguo Zhou, is a professor at Auburn University and a STRIDE-affiliated researcher. Dr. Zhou provided the guidance for the high school team’s project and encouraged the high school students to present their award-winning concept at the STRIDE poster showcase during the 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Symposium in Orlando, Florida.
As for Michael, he will graduate in May 2020 and will be pursuing a degree in engineering. As for his friends who are certainly on the same path, he said that working on the concept design was a way to further solidify their friendship no matter where their paths take them after high school.
“Working in a team, we’re all like friends, and we’ve been doing Science Olympiad for a long time,” he said. “We’re pretty much STEM-minded people, and since Joy was moving to Seattle, Washington, this could keep us all connected.”