Build a Better Mousetrap Competition – Iowa

People involved in the transportation industry often find better ways to do their jobs. Whether it’s through a new gadget that improves the quality and safety of a project or an innovative process that reduces costs and improves efficiency, it is often the people on the front lines who discover the latest and best practices.

Build a Better Mousetrap highlights innovative solutions to everyday challenges that local and tribal transportation professionals encounter. These solutions range from the development of tools and equipment modifications, to new processes that enhance safety, reduce cost, increase efficiency and improve the quality of transportation.

Iowa’s Build a Better Mousetrap Competition provides a great opportunity to share your new ideas with others! We are looking for submissions from employees of Iowa’s local public agencies (e.g., cities and counties) who have created different solutions to problems or found better ways of doing things.

We will gather the best ideas from around the state and judge them using a point rating system. The criteria are listed below.

Judging Criteria

  1. Recognized importance/ impact
  2. Originality
  3. Applicability to others
  4. Cost effectiveness
  5. Time savings
  6. Agency or community benefit
  7. Overall quality of the application
  8. Spotlight videos receive extra points

Guidance from FHWA on the spotlight videos and on photographs are below, as well as the required release form for any person included in the videos or photos.

Based on these criteria, a state winner will be selected from all of the local public agency entries, and that entry will be submitted to the National Local Technical Assistance Program/Tribal Technical Assistance Program (LTAP/TTAP) Build a Better Mousetrap Competition. National winners will be announced at the annual National LTAP/TTAP Conference in July 2020.

Those that place first to third in Iowa will be announced in the Iowa LTAP newsletter along with other recognition and receive free workshop registrations. The ideas submitted may also be presented to attendees at various conferences and the annual city and county research focus groups.

Contest Categories

  • Innovative Project Award: This category celebrates a local agency or tribe that implemented a new technology or design in construction. The innovation enhances the quality, timeliness, cost effectiveness, safety, environmental benefit and/or efficiency of the highway project.
  • Bold Steps Award: This category recognizes a local or tribal agency that embraced forward thinking in the development and implementation of an innovative practices that improves or streamlines transportation related processes. The innovative change should show improvement in performance, management and efficiency. This award could include advancements in areas of program and project management, finance, safety, mobility, sustainability, and maintenance.
  • Smart Transformation Award: This category celebrates development and deployment of solutions that improve field data capture, data analysis, automation and real-time collection, and/or implementation of smart infrastructure. This award category is not intended for the implementation of “off the shelf” products or customizable solutions that are available in the market and/or provided by a specific vendor.
  • Pioneer Award: This category recognizes agency inventors that develop new tools and equipment that provide a better way to do a job or advance road maintenance and construction. Implemented tools and methods should be an original design or creative adaptation that results in significant advancement, rather than the result of natural evolution of existing methods, common sense or good practice. Entries should demonstrate genuine change and innovation that can impact the wider transportation community.

Submission Instructions

If you have something you think would qualify for this competition, submit your entry by May 3, 2021. The competition is open to employees of any city or county agency.

You can submit you entries online using the form below, or, if you prefer, you can submit your entries by mail (see instructions to the right).

Photo and video guidance: FHWA provides some guidance for any photographs and Spotlight Videos. PDF

Release form: In addition, FHWA requests that you obtain a release form for each person you photograph, record, or video. Please include a copy of all release forms in your entry by attaching the following PDF in the “File” section of the form. PDF

Enter the Competition
    Categories described above.
  • Provide specific details on the issues you faced and why it needed to be addressed.
  • Provide details on how you developed, built, and implemented your solution to meet your objective(s). Address the originality of the solution and why you selected this solution.
  • Include design sketch, drawing, and materials list as applicable here or in the file upload section below.
  • Add supporting data such as salary time, cost of materials, equipment used, etc.
  • Include a discussion of data or evidence to support the outcome and/or the revised level of effort upon implementation to complete the job or process. Has this been shared? With whom? Results?
  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, gif, png, pdf, doc, docx, jpeg, png, jpg.
    Two photographs (minimum) are required. Limited to 10 MB.
    Don't forget to include the FHWA release PDF here, if applicable.
  • Please keep in mind that photographs are required to be included; a Spotlight Video is encouraged (and gets you more points), but not mandatory.
    Include links to your videos here.