A Safer, Easier Tomorrow Begins with Sharing Innovation Today
Thomas Edison said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.” The Build a Better Mousetrap (BABM) program seeks to share the many examples in which local and tribal road agencies did just that – saw a problem or opportunity in a new light and innovated to overcome. Since 2009, LTAP/TTAP centers and FHWA have collaborated to gather and share the practical, proven, and cost-effective solutions of local road agencies’ ingenuity and creativity, to recognize the individuals and organizations that found a better way to conduct day-to-day business, and to share their innovative improvements with their peers across the nation. These ideas come from a wide variety of local governments (counties, cities, towns, townships, villages, boroughs, and parishes) and tribal governments.
What Innovations are Eligible for BABM?
BABM encompasses a wide range of ideas and inventions. Program submissions can focus on new or modified tools and equipment, or streamlined processes and unique roadway designs, for instance. All submissions feature innovations that help local road agency personnel increase safety, reduce initial or life-cycle costs, improve efficiency, or improve the quality of transportation in their community. All BABM submissions must feature non-proprietary designs and processes that may be used freely by any agency or individual.
These innovations move the needle a little bit in the right direction, producing small, but important, savings in cost and time, increased safety, increased durability, greater reliability, and less downtime, or made someone’s job easier, stretched dollars further, or resulted in better roads for their community. BABM provides recognition for local and tribal road agencies and their employees, shows them that their ideas have value, and recognizes them on a local, and perhaps even national, stage. Very importantly, it also helps share innovation so that other agencies can replicate a great idea for their own benefit.
Judging criteria and program guidelines vary at each state and the national level but are typically evaluated within categories determined annually by FHWA for relevancy and applicability to the time.
How Does BABM Work?
BABM begins at the state level when individual LTAP Centers lead the following tasks:
- Develop state-level BABM marketing plans, leaning upon materials developed and shared from FHWA CLAS, to share program information with local road agencies,
- Solicit innovations, including working with individual agencies to document those innovations, and
- Send the innovations with the most impact and relevance to FHWA for consideration in the National BABM competition. At this level, projects are judged on a scale of criteria that are announced each year, and may include cost effectiveness, times savings, originality, overall benefit, or other criteria.
National winners are announced at the annual National LTAP/TTAP conference. FHWA publishes an annual BABM National Entry Booklet that recognizes the national project winners and also documents many of the other submitted projects. Centers are encouraged to share the BABM National Entry Booklet, and the innovations contained within it, with their local road agencies. Some of these innovations will strike a chord with a group or individual, and the innovation process takes another step forward, helping another local road agency team to save time or work safer!
Want more details and examples?
Check out the FHWA Build a Better Mousetrap website for all past BABM National Entry Booklets, videos highlighting the BABM program and past innovations, and additional details on the program. Does your local agency have an innovation to submit? Contact your state’s LTAP Center to participate, or for assistance!