Student Essay Competition


IRF Student Essay Competition

All papers must be submitted and received by 5:00 p.m. (EST), November 20, 2013.

The IRF Student Essay Competition is an annual contest held to recognize promising road research. This competition is open to all students attending an IRF Member university in good- standing as well as IRF Fellows currently enrolled as full time students. The winning essays in each category will receive a US $500 cash award.

The categories and related topics for the competition are developed based on input from IRF Members regarding their research needs.

Participants may choose any topic within any category for their essays, or professors may wish to limit the topics based on their particular curriculum.



Essays will be evaluated by a panel of experts from the road industry according to the criteria and point system outlined below.

  • Comprehension: How well does the essay reflect a thorough understanding of the topic?
  • Organization: Does the essay follow a logical and easily understood progression?
  • Creativity: Were diverse resources and ideas used to develop the topic?
  • Applicability: Can the proposed solution(s) be applied feasibly?
  • Conclusions: Do the conclusions follow logically from the argument? Are the conclusions compelling?


5 Points – Essay met the criteria very well 4 Points – Essay mostly met the criteria

3 Points – Essay adequately met the criteria

2 Points – Essay only met the criteria a few times 1 Point –   Essay never met the criteria


In addition to receiving a $500 cash award at the IRF Annual Awards Luncheon in January 2014, the winning essays will be published by IRF in the form of an electronic discussion paper. Each winning essay will be featured on IRF’s website throughout the 2014 calendar year.



In order to ensure the papers are all presented in the same format, we are requiring they be submitted using the sections outlined below.  All papers should be submitted in English using Times New Roman (size 12) font with double spacing.  The essays must be a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 1,500 words and use the following format:

  • Background
  • Research Objective
  • Data Collection and Reduction
  • Analysis
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • References




Road Safety:

  • What innovative options should be considered to protect pedestrians while maintaining or improving traffic flows in municipalities?
  • How can the “safe system” concept developed in pioneering countries such as Sweden be implemented in emerging economies with rapidly growing vehicle fleets?
  • What financially beneficial strategies should insurance companies take to advocate and financially support safety countermeasures to reduce the number and severity of road traffic injuries?


  • What developments or modifications to the highway infrastructure are needed to allow “smarter” vehicles meet their promise of safer and more efficient travel?

Funding / Maintenance Management:

  • With long term improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, what options other than a gas tax must be considered to adequately provide for highway asset construction and maintenance?
  • How can GIS technologies be utilized to improve communications of asset management decisions across all level of stakeholders?
  • What creative concepts could be developed and implemented to reduce road project construction time and costs?
  • What creative concepts could be developed and implemented to improve real time incident detection?



  • What strategies can be considered to assist road authorities, design engineers and academia stay current regarding state of the art technologies and best practices being used around the world?


Pavement and Pavement Material:

  • How can the choice of paving materials impact a road network’s resilience to new weather patterns and ability to recover from major natural occurrences, such as flooding and earthquakes?


For inquiries, please contact Esteban Salinas at , +1 703 5351001

Fill out my online form.

Submissions Open Until 5pm EST, November 20, 2013

Post your submission here or to the left using the “Submit your essay” tab

Last Year’s Student Essay Competition Winners

Innovative Finance

Winner - Yijing Lu – University of Maryland, College Park
Implementing Marginal-Cost Vehicle Mileage Fees on the Maryland Statewide Road Network

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Winner - Chenfeng Xiong University of Maryland College Park Lei Zhang
On En-Route Diversion Behavior: Emerging Data Collection Techniques & Modeling Method

Sustainable Roads

Winner - Daniel Mogrovejo Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Dr Gerardo Flintsch
Effect of Air Temperature and Vehicle Speed on Tire / Pavement Noise Measured with On-Board Sound Intensity