Senior Design Finalists Compete for First Prize
ISyE's Senior Design course wrapped up fall semester with very impressive results. Out of the twenty student groups who competed, three were selected as finalists to present their projects to faculty, students, and industry sponsors on December 12, 2007.
Associate Professor Steven Hackman, the faculty coordinator for Senior Design stated "Although we had several strong projects completed this semester, these three really stand out in terms of technical challenges as well as the potential value they bring to the sponsor." Finalists engaged in projects sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office Depot, and Whirlpool Corporation.
Of the three finalists, the winning team included Allan Garcia, Jason Hoff, Mary Beth LaHatte, Alejandro Leyva, John Shea, and Ashley Thompson who worked with the CDC on a project entitled "Developing an Effective Production and Distribution Method to Eradicate Mosquitoes in Sudan, Africa." Based on the technical expertise involved in this project and the resulting impact to the client, these students were awarded first prize in the overall competition. The sponsor contact was Dr. Mark Benedict with Professor Craig Tovey serving as faculty advisor.
The CDC has proposed the use of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to reduce the Anopheline mosquito populations in Sudan, Africa. SIT is a method of biological control that involves the mass rearing of insects in a production facility and the sterilization of males by exposing them to low doses of radiation, or to chemosterilants. Malaria is transmitted exclusively by female mosquitoes. SIT effectively breaks the chain of reproduction when a female mates with sterile males, as female mosquitoes mate once in a lifetime.
The purpose of this project was to establish and provide a set of guidelines and recommendations that will aid in the implementation of SIT to
reduce the Anopheline mosquito populations in Sudan. Team members began by estimating the population densities of adult mosquitoes at the designated release sites in Merowe and determining a location for the production facility. They not only designed the production process, but provided tools for decision making, and performed an analysis of the most significant costs involved in implementation. Their research showed that the most effective means to implement SIT depends on the conditions in Merowe, such as time of year and the river level. As a result of this finding, the group developed a software tool that finds the best strategy based on a set of factors input by a user. This software tool can be used to determine the best SIT strategy in other parts of the world affected by malaria.
Runners-up in the competition included team members Ahmed Bajwa, Alison Kao, Stephanie Lake, Emil Loewy, Santiago Quintero, and Vivian Hernandez. These individuals worked with Office Depot on a project entitled "Depot Materials Handling Model." The sponsor contact was Scott King and the faculty advisor was Associate Professor Seong-Hee Kim.
Office Depot has a 550,000 square foot warehouse in Atlanta that services 156 retail stores in the Southeast. One of the problems Office Depot faces in this facility is that they are unable to determine the optimal number of material handling devices and batteries necessary to maneuver pallets and pick material. Further, it is difficult for the company to determine how many of these devices they should purchase verses how many they should rent. To address the problem, team members developed and implemented simulation and optimization models to 1) minimize the total number of machines required, 2) create an equipment schedule, 3) determine the best number of machines and batteries to purchase and rent, and 4) provide a standardized equipment usage model. As a result, students showed Office Depot a potential savings of more than 33% from current costs, which equates to approximately $550K annually. In addition, the students' model can be applied to other Office Depot facilities with a total potential savings of more than $9M annually.
"This is the third group I have sponsored since participating in the program myself as a student, and I have a fourth group slated for next semester," said Scott D. King, BS IE 2004, project engineer, Office Depot. "It is truly amazing what a group of young minds are able to accomplish in such a short time. It's a testament to the education and training they receive at the institute. Many of my colleagues agree that the particular discipline of engineering a student pursues is not as essential as learning the skills of analytical problem solving (or as we refer to it "thinking like an engineer"). These design project present the students with real-world problems, and are the perfect opportunity to put this into practice."
The third finalist team to present included Brandon Tubandt, Jacob Robinson, Jessie Spencer, Kathryn Oliver, and Timothy Dennis who worked with Whirlpool Corporation on a project entitled "Quality Express Routing." The sponsor contact was Hisham Khaki and Associate Professor Shabbir Ahmed served as the team's faculty advisor.
Whirlpool supplies the Atlanta region with more than 1700 different appliance types, all from a distribution center located in Ellenwood, Georgia. The distribution center receives orders from multiple sources on a daily basis and routes trucks to make the deliveries. The routes produced by the current process are inefficient, resulting in high transportation costs. To address Whirlpool's routing problem, team members developed a software tool, Quality Express Routing, which takes input from Whirlpool's database and mapping software and uses optimization techniques to determine improved routes while reducing overall mileage. Further, the output is in a standardized format, making it easy to understand. Based on comparisons between the current routes and the routes produced by Quality Express Routing, implementation of the tool will reduce transportation costs by more than 22%, resulting in close to $600,000 in annual savings.
All senior students in ISyE culminate their undergraduate educational experience with the Senior Design course in order to provide firsthand experience at solving real world problems in a team environment. Students typically work in teams of five to six individuals with 15-25 Senior Design groups running each semester. Each group is advised by an ISyE faculty member, and the faculty coordinator manages the overall course. Companies interested in submitting a project for consideration can either contact the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Chen Zhou at 404 894-2326, or they can post a project through the ISyE webpage at www.isye.gatech.edu/seniordesign. Senior design teams look for projects before the start of the fall and spring semesters.