Second Place - High School

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

2020 Youth Design Challenge

This design concept was developed by participants in the Institute’s Youth Design Challenge. The descriptions below are from the team’s competition entry materials.

School: Hopewell Valley Central High School
Location: Pennington, New Jersey
Coach: Margarita Trujillo
Team members: Akhansha Arvind, Nadia Chasalow, Olivia Kim, Sarah Mian

Four diagrams showing function of concrete solution
Image: Project Team / A Concrete Solution / Copyright © - All rights reserved

Innovation Details

Inspired by their research on bamboo stems, pomelo peels, and honeycombs, the SONA team created an alternative to concrete barriers to protect cyclists and pedestrians from vehicles. Their goal was to encourage more people to use their pedal power rather than rely on greenhouse gas emitting vehicles. A Concrete Solution supports behavioral change within communities, while decreasing air pollution that worsens respiratory illnesses and causes imbalances in our global climate.


What is the problem addressed for this Challenge and how is it related to climate change?

The team addressed the lack of safe bike lanes on many roads in America by creating an eco-friendly bike lane barrier. On average, 98% of yearly American cyclist deaths occur in accidents with motor vehicles. Many Americans feel unsafe biking on busy roads, and often opt to drive cars instead, causing emissions that contribute to climate change. However, traditional concrete road barriers are not the solution because concrete causes greenhouse gas emissions during production accounts for about 10% of global industrial water use, causes air pollution that worsens respiratory illnesses, and contributes to the crisis.


What does this design solution do? How does it solve and improve a problem?

The design solution is a traffic barrier between the main road and bike lane. The barrier protects bikers from vehicles, thus encouraging people to bike rather than relying on greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles. Decreased use of such vehicles lowers greenhouse gas emissions, reducing climate change. The barrier’s layers of hexagonal cells are filled with air and an impact-absorbing to manage impact and compression during vehicle collisions. The barrier also has a moss air purification system that absorbs carbon dioxide and outputs oxygen, further reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.


How was this solution inspired by nature? What organisms inspired it?

The solution was inspired by bamboo stems, pomelo peels, and honeycombs. Bamboo stems and pomelo peels manage impact through density gradients that are very dense at the exterior and least dense at the core. This strategy was employed by filling many cells near the barrier’s exterior with an impact-absorbing polymer and more cells towards the core with air. Honeycombs inspired our barrier’s interior structure, which consists of compression-managing hexagonal cell layers that prevent the barrier from vehicle collision damage. The barrier is multifunctional because it includes a moss air filtration system, so it encourages biking and purifies the surrounding air.