Imagine driving down the highway when all of a sudden you see a pair of headlights getting closer. It seems that another car is driving in the wrong direction, and is now speeding straight toward you. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does the consequences can be deadly.

For most people, a problem is only seen as something to avoid. But for engineers, problems are just puzzles begging to be solved. Five students from the University of Missouri College of Engineering took this approach when faced with the problem of wrong-way driving.

The students, Elizabeth Farr, Robert Gallup, Katy Harlan, Jacob Kaltenbronn and Kaitlin Windsor devised a notification system that would alert drivers who start to turn the wrong way with flashing lights and a warning siren. Their concept was both simple and incredibly effective.

Their solution was only meant to fulfill a class assignment. However, the assignment requirements happened to meet those of the Traffic Control Device Challenge, a national competition held each year by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), in partnership with the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

The group made a joint decision to submit their proposal for judging at the yearly Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington D.C. The students placed third overall and were awarded with a cash prize. And someday, their solution might save a life.