A new idea for how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can clean the subway tracks is coming from a very unlikely source—a group of teenagers. NY1’s Lindsey Christ filed this report.

Trash on the subway tracks attracts rats, causes fires and delays riders—and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's system for picking it up is falling way short of the agency's own standards. 

Enter 12 smart high school seniors.

A prototype of a vacuum would attach to the front of the MTA's work trains—an invention that came out of the back of a tiny classroom, where the dozen Baruch College High School seniors have holed up.

"They've been coming in every single day from 3 to 6 p.m. They've come in overcome breaks to work and every Saturday for full days to work on it," said teacher Elisabeth Jaffe.

They won a prestigious $8,000 grant from MIT and recruited a lot of mentors for free advice.

Now, they've caught the attention of the City Comptroller, who released an audit a few weeks ago about this very issue.

"The trains that clean the tracks really don't work. There's only two of them in the system. One picks up the garbage 30 percent of the time and one is broken. So what these students put forth is a new way of thinking about subway maintenance, meaning you need something smaller, mobile, quicker," Comptroller Scott Stringer said.

Stringer stopped by the school Monday to see the students present their invention, and was so impressed, he promised to get them an audience with the MTA. 

"I think this is the prototype of the future and it happened right here," he said.

All twelve of the team members are first generation Americans and, in September, they’ll be the first in their families to go to college. Nearly all of them plan to study engineering.

"This is our passion. It started out as an intangible idea and now we are making tangible," says student Xiao Hui Zheng.

Meanwhile the students already have a big presentation coming up. They've been invited to present the prototype at MIT in a few weeks, so they're now in middle of a different type of challenge—raising the money to get there.

You can get more information about their project at their blogs: bcchslmit.wordpress.com and lemelson.mit.edu/teams/635.

If you are interested in donating toward their trip to MIT, email kwan.melody@bcchsnyc.net.