Undergraduates Showcase Research in Poster Session

Undergraduates in IOE 202 “Operations Modeling” had the chance to present their course projects to the IOE community in a poster session held on December 11, 2017. IOE 202 is made up mostly of sophomores who are just beginning their careers in IOE. In the course, students worked in teams on a project in which they identified an operations problem of interest to them and used an operations modeling approach to derive a solution to their problem.

The poster session, arranged by course instructor Lauren Steimle, gave students the opportunity to present their findings. Steimle says she was taking Susan Montogomery’s graduate-level “Teaching Engineering” class as she was preparing to teach 202. One thing they discussed was how a poster session could be a feasible way to have a large number of students present their work. She liked the idea and decided to put it into practice.

“The ability to communicate technical material is a valuable skill for engineers. However, it seems that many undergraduate engineering students often do not get the opportunity to practice presenting technical information until later on in their undergraduate careers due to the logistical challenges of organizing presentations for larger, introductory-level classes,” said Steimle.

Rachel Cooper was one student who appreciated the opportunity the poster session provided. Rachel works as a barista at Starbucks on South Main Street in Ann Arbor. Because the store is located so close to campus, many students work there. Her project came about because she noticed the difficulty her manager was having scheduling around students’ continuously variant schedules.

“Our team decided to create a mixed-integer program through Excel that would help make this problem easier!” Rachel said. “We ended up with so much data that we had to upgrade to a stronger Excel software, OpenSolver, in order to run our program.  Presenting at the poster fair was really fun because I was able to speak from experience about why this mixed-integer program was so helpful to the store. Our group had a lot of fun learning about the magic that happens behind the scenes when scheduling for a corporation. I’m planning on showing my manager the work we did next time I’m scheduled!”

The projects were widely varied, providing many interesting discussions between attendees and the students presenting. For instance, Sajay Srivastava and his team applied IOE principals to televised football, “Our group wanted to see if we could apply the optimization principles that we learned in 202 (specifically, linear programming) to develop an “optimal” college football broadcast schedule. We decided to use the primary ESPN College Football networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2) with multiple time slots (in general, early afternoon, evening, night, and late-night). We also created a “matchup coefficient” metric, which we used to gauge the attractiveness of each matchup. This took factors such as poll rankings, overall program strength, and rivalries into account. We then used this metric, in combination with historic viewership data and various constraints, to create a schedule (using Excel’s Solver) that maximized potential viewership over the course of a Saturday slate of games,” said Sajay.

Lauren was pleased with how the poster session played out. She said, “I think the students learned communication skills by gaining valuable presentation experience and evaluating other groups’ poster presentations. Further, I believe the poster component motivated students to produce high-quality work since they knew that they would be sharing their projects with their classmates and faculty members. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the project and the posters.”