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Pair of BGSU students create system aimed at preventing wrong-way crashes

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Bowling Green University engineering technology seniors Kevin Baumann, left, and Seth Cooper designed a system aimed to prevent wrong-way crashes. The effort was part of a ‘capstone’ senior project. They said they hoped a master’s student would take over the project.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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BOWLING GREEN — Imagine making a big mistake: pulling onto an interstate headed the wrong way.

Two students majoring in engineering technology at Bowling Green State University envisioned that scenario and came up with a potential solution. They researched a conceptual system to use magnets in the ground to detect a wrong-way driver, trigger signs to light up to warn the driver to stop, and cause a spike strip to pop up from the road to flatten tires should the driver continue in the wrong direction.

The “capstone” project by Kevin Baumann, 23, of Columbus and Seth Cooper, 23, of Bucyrus fulfills a senior-year requirement in their academic studies.

Their work follows a rash of area fatal wrong-way crashes, including a March, 2012, collision on I-75 that killed three BGSU students and the wrong-way driver who slammed into the students’ car.

Mr. Baumann and Mr. Cooper didn’t know the students who died but said their project was motivated by a desire to prevent such crashes.

“Anything that affects people’s lives from a safety standpoint is important to us,” Mr. Cooper said.

They started work in January and built a model roadway. Their efforts earned them an A.

The system would work best at the beginning of an interstate entrance or exit ramp when a car is driving its slowest, they said.

“The idea is to stop them before they even enter the highway to begin with,” Mr. Baumann said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation last year upgraded signs, including “wrong way” warnings, along expressway interchanges and freeways. Supplemental wrong-way signs were installed at a lower height to make them easier to spot at night, and pavement markings were added in some locations, said Theresa Pollick, a spokesman at ODOT’s district office in Bowling Green. ODOT is open to ideas.

“We’re always looking into research,” she said.

Concerns with using spike strips include how to accommodate emergency vehicles which sometimes have to use ramps in the wrong way, Ms. Pollick said.

John Sinn, a professor and chairman of the department of engineering technologies, called the students’ work relevant and said all student projects have a “societal implication.”

“We regret that we end up dealing with something so real and vital to the future, but that’s who we are,” he said.

He hopes to see the hands-on capstone experience expand so projects can be continued by others after one team leaves the university. Mr. Baumann would like to see their project picked up by a graduate student.

Both students are preparing for the next step.

Mr. Baumann graduates at the end of summer and will soon start a six-month position in research and development at Toyota in Ann Arbor.

Mr. Cooper hopes to continue working in a design and engineering job at Freeman Co. in Fremont. He graduates today.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: mccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.

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