Members of the Cyber Knights, the robotics team at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Chatham, have helped to develop a system to alert drivers when deer are on the move.
“The students are really excited that officials with the Ministry of Transportation liked their idea and that it is being piloted in the area,” says Dan Rolo, a teacher and robotics team coach at Our Lady of Fatima.
The students participated in a FIRST Robotics Canada competition in Sarnia last December. One component of the competition was to identify a real-world problem, develop a solution and then present the idea to professionals who work in the field. The theme was “Animal Allies” and the team decided to look into how to prevent vehicle collisions with deer.
The device they developed consists of a motion-activated exterior light mounted on a post facing away from the highway. Their thinking was that when deer approach the roadway, the light would be triggered, frightening the animal away from the road.
Mr. Rolo reached out to staff from the West Region Ministry of Transportation, and following a meeting with representatives from the Traffic Section and Operations Office, further refinements were made. It was determined the light should be fitted with some type of backing to prevent it from being seen from the highway, so that drivers are not distracted. In addition, the motion sensor will also activate a flashing beacon mounted above a deer alert sign, so that motorists know animals are on the move nearby and to drive with caution.
“It’s so great to see an interest in public safety from such a group of bright young minds like the Cyber Knights. The ministry is very pleased to pilot their invention, and I look forward to the results” says Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation. Mr. Del Duca, who was unable to meet with the students personally, sent along message via DVD, in which he praised them for their efforts.
"Deer collisions are a serious problem in Ontario," he says. "Your hard work may help make Ontario roads safer."
Director of Education Dan Parr also congratulated the students. "This is precisely the kind of 21st Century learning we like to see in our classrooms," Mr. Parr told the students. "Your teacher has given you the opportunity to use your skills to help solve a real-life problem. Congratulations on your work!"
The deer alert warning system was installed in April on 40 Highway near Bickford Line in Lambton County, and the results of the pilot will be reviewed next December.
In the photo (top left) with Teacher Dan Rolo and student members of the Cyber Knights Robotics Team are (L-R) Heather Hanson, Supervisor - Ministry of Transportation Traffic Section (London Region); Frank Lucente, Head - Operational Services, Ministry of Transportation. In the photo (above right) receiving a Roads to Excellence Award on behalf of the school are (L-R) Lisa Demers, Principal, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School; Jennifer Graham-Harkness, Regional Director, Ministry of Transportation presenting the award to Dan Rolo, Teacher and Cyber Knights Robotics Team Coach; Deb Crawford, Superintendent of Education; and Dan Parr, Director of Education. In the photo (bottom left) the proto-type warning system being piloted on 40 Highway in Lambton County.