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October 20, 2010
By Natalie Savidge
On Oct. 1, 2010, members of the robotics team at The Davidson Academy of Nevada, a public school on the University of Nevada, Reno campus for profoundly gifted middle and high school students, began partnering with University Police Services to implement a year-long Pedestrian Safety Awareness Campaign on high-traffic streets near campus. The project, “Speed and Pedestrian Safety Management on North Virginia and Sierra Streets,” is funded by an $11,825 Highway Safety grant, recently approved by the Nevada Department of Public Safety – Office of Traffic Safety.
This year’s University student population is the largest in the school’s history at 17,679 students, including the largest freshman class with 2,764 students. The majority of off-campus housing is located west of Sierra Street, forcing these students to cross two busy streets, North Virginia and Sierra, twice a day while walking to and from campus. According to the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), the average daily traffic count of vehicles on North Virginia Street in 2009 was 15,000 and 11,000 on Sierra Street.
“We were so excited by what these young students were proposing that we wanted to pursue grant funding to put this program into action,” said Commander Todd Renwick with University Police Services. “This is truly an outstanding group of young people and we felt their ideas could help improve pedestrian safety and possibly save lives.”
The Highway Safety grant, which ends Sept. 30, 2011, allows Davidson Academy students to implement a program developed last year for the research portion of the First Lego League (FLL) competition, while the other portion of the competition was based on robotics. As part of this FLL Smart Moves research project, the Test Track Dummies robotics team proposed solutions to the pedestrian safety problem on North Virginia and Sierra Streets near campus, such as creating an incentive program to educate and reward pedestrians and drivers who use safe practices. The team presented this idea to the University Police Department, whose leaders suggested collaborating on a grant to implement the program.
The Test Track Dummies, in conjunction with University student volunteers and police officers, will conduct safety surveys, host several events where the University community will be asked to sign a safer practices commitment when traveling in the study area, and distribute safety information and incentives to citizens. Team members will also help design the incentive items given to pedestrians and drivers.
“The Davidson Academy students are very excited to see their hard work and creative ideas come to fruition,” said Jody Cram, parent advisor. “We have seen several close calls while observing the study area and we look forward to working with the University Police Department to improve pedestrian safety in our community!”
Pedestrian safety tips include:
Funding for this project provided (in whole or in part) by the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety.