National first place for speed management solutions

Jan. 12, 2022

MSU wins 2022 Traffic Control Device Student Challenge

Spartans from the Michigan State University College of Engineering won national first place honors at the 2022 Traffic Control Device Student Challenge during the Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 10.

Winners of the TCD Student Challenge are Md Shakir Mahmud, Nischal Gupta, Emma C. Hagel, Nusayba Megat Johari, and Anshu Bamney.
National winners are (from left) Md Shakir Mahmud, Nischal Gupta, Emma C. Hagel, Nusayba Megat Johari, and Anshu Bamney.

MSU’s team of Anshu Bamney, Nischal Gupta, Emma C. Hagel, Nusayba Megat Johari, and Md Shakir Mahmud took top honors over engineering students from across the U.S. in the student challenge titled, “Innovative Traffic Control Device Strategies for Speed Management on Limited Access Freeways.”

“Our team received the first-place award for their project, ‘Active traffic management using combined dynamic speed limit display and speed feedback sign,’" said faculty adviser Peter Savolainen, an MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

"The competition was focused on developing innovative solutions to address issues related to speeding-involved crashes on freeways, like I-69 and I-96. The students proposed using data collected from a variety of sensors in order to trigger a reduced posted limited or advisory speed if traffic volumes exceeded a maximum threshold value or if average speeds dropped below some minimum threshold. This would be paired with a dynamic feedback sign, which would display both the posted/advisory speed, as well as the actual average speed of traffic,” he explained.

“We have conducted evaluative research for the Michigan Department of Transportation, which suggests this is a very promising solution as states across the U.S. continue to experience record numbers of speeding-involved crashes.”

The annual student competition was hosted by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), in partnership with the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB). Second place went to a team from Florida International University for the project, “Radar speed detection for speed management on limited access facilities.”

“It is always fun to interact with students and see their talents come together to brainstorm ways to solve real-world problems,” said ATSSA Director of Innovation & Technical Services Eric Perry. “Speeding is a significant contributor to crashes in work zones that lead to fatalities, so seeing some new ideas to help solve these problems is great.”

The TCD Student Challenge is open to high school, junior college, college and university students or teams of students who have an interest in transportation and an understanding of traffic control devices. Students in relevant fields such as transportation, human factors and technology-related curricula are particularly encouraged to participate.

Entries are judged on the ability of the idea to address the problem, applicability of the idea and its transferability to various environments and roadways, and feasibility of implementation. 

The two winning teams received a cash prize ($1,500 for first place and $1,000 for second place) and the opportunity to present their submissions to members of the roadway safety infrastructure industry at ATSSA’s 52nd Annual Convention & Traffic Expo in Tampa, Florida, Feb. 11-15.

"This win builds upon a second-place finish in the 2020 TCD Challenge from a team that included some of these same students,” Savolainen added.

“This award is reflective of the strength of our transportation program and the high caliber of students we have been fortunate to recruit. In addition to balancing the competing demands of their coursework, funded research, and the pandemic, they put in significant amounts of extra effort as a part of this competition, providing a clear demonstration of their passion and commitment to improving traffic safety. This is a true personification of Spartan Will!"

All of the students are graduate students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Gupta, Johari, and Bamney are Ph.D. students and Hagel is a master's student - all advised by Savolainen. Mahmud is a Ph.D. student advised by Professor Timothy Gates.

Portions of this story are courtesy of the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board.