A student team from the University of Michigan took home top honors at the second annual Transportation Technology Tournament; a competition sponsored by the National Operations Center of Excellence and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The NOCoE is a partnership of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, with support from the Federal Highway Administration.
Held during the Institute of Transportation Engineers annual meeting in Austin, Texas, the NOCoE’s second annual transportation technology competition featured teams of college and graduate school students working directly with state and local departments of transportation to solve real-world transportation problems using both intelligent transportation system (ITS) and transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) solutions.
The five finalists in this year’s competition included the University of Michigan team, a team from Florida International University, one from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and two teams from the University of South Florida.
The University of Michigan team presented their solution – entitled Corridor Management in the I-75/I-696 Influence Area – to a panel of private and public sector judges to win the top award. Their proposal included developing a “supply-focused” solution managing the flow of vehicles using those highways, as well as a “demand-focused” solution aimed at reducing car trips via the use of shuttles and car-pooling among the area’s major employers, such as General Motors and Chrysler.
Team members Alex Sundt, Yan Zhao, and Xiatong Sun said they were confident but “surprised” by their win. They also noted the contest helped reinforce the need for specific skill sets as they move into the workforce.
“We learned that soft skills are really important,” Yan Zhoa added. “We are used to solving equations and we are used to presenting in front of a lot of academic people but when we solve real-life problems, we have to present our solutions to people who may not be familiar with equations. We have to explain the details and our reasoning behind it. That will be really helpful in my future.”