Transportation Graduate Student Class Project Leads to Changes At Local School

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When Dr. Miller-Hooks was approached by the German School (i.e. the Deutsch Schule) in Potomac, Maryland for help with routing a heterogeneous fleet of nine school buses to serve students in grades pre-k through 13 (their students endure an extra grade!), she put the challenge to her 15 transportation graduate students who attended her class, ENCE 688T Transportation Network Algorithms and Implementations, this past Spring semester. The German School had been struggling with developing routes for their buses and often wondered if and how they could come up with closer to optimal routes. This problem can be modeled as a vehicle routing problem, a difficult mathematical problem that is well-known to be mathematically intractable. With techniques studied in Dr. Miller-Hooks’ class and expertise gained through other courses taken during their studies with us, the students were ready to meet the challenge of developing tours that would outperform the current tours used by the school. On May 12, the students were greeted by a German School bus driver who had come to campus to drive the students to the German School campus in Potomac. The students were welcomed to the school by Board members, the principle, interested parents, and Mr. Dorsey, the man in charge of the fleet of buses (who was skeptical that we could improve his routes). The students presented their findings. The school was surprised and excited to see how much improvement was possible. They are planning to change their bus routes this next academic year to incorporate the best results obtained by class members.

Article/photo credit: Dr. Elise Miller-Hooks

Published May 23, 2008