Industrial and systems engineering seniors win technical paper competition

By Cassie Montgomery

Published: Mar 16, 2021 9:32:00 AM

From left to right: Caroline Allen, Annie Dorsey and Anne Curtis Giovanelli From left to right: Caroline Allen, Annie Dorsey and Anne Curtis Giovanelli

A student-team of three industrial and systems engineering seniors was recently announced as the winner of the Southeast Regional Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers’ (IISE) Technical Paper Competition. Annie Dorsey, Caroline Allen and Anne Curtis Giovanelli have been invited to present at the 2021 Virtual IISE Annual Conference and to compete at the national level competition. 

The students completed the technical paper as part of a term project for their Simulations course, taught by assistant professor Konstantinos Mykoniatis. The project required students to research challenges that a local business in Auburn faces and “propose an innovative, pragmatic solution that has the potential to improve the business’ operations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mykoniatis said. 

The students chose to focus their project on a local drive-thru fast-food restaurant, evaluating the behavior of the system, identifying inefficiencies and problems and exploring opportunities for improvement of the drive-thru system.

"When we were first assigned this project, we knew we wanted to pick a system that impacted Auburn students. After a few brainstorming sessions, we settled upon a drive-thru location that was a popular choice for students looking for a quick bite to eat, but instead led to frustratingly long wait times,” said Allen. “Beyond that, with the ongoing pandemic, drive-thrus quickly became the new normal, and often the only option if you wanted to enjoy your favorite fast-food meal. With more customers utilizing the drive-thru, it became even more imperative to find ways to improve the speed of service and overall customer experience." 

One of the biggest challenges the trio encountered was learning to use the simulation software Simio, a program that they hadn’t worked with prior to the start of the course in fall 2020.

“As we worked through building the model, we ran into several bumps in the road, but Dr. Mykoniatis was always available to assist us with any troubleshooting,” said Giovanelli. “To go from Simio novices to having our paper recognized has been a great accomplishment. We are so excited to move on to the national competition level in May.”

Mykoniatis commended the team for the work they put in above and beyond the course requirements to submit their work to IISE for consideration.

“The students demonstrated the ability to handle every task I assigned them efficiently and effectively through hard work. They often requested more challenging tasks to acquire new simulation skills and improve their existing ones,” he said. “As a result, they improved and expanded their technical report by integrating advanced simulation techniques, such as dynamic scheduling and optimization.”

Overall, the team is proud of their accomplishment and looking forward to the challenges to come.

"Our biggest takeaway has been to not allow inexperience to stop you from trying new things,” Dorsey said. “As mentioned, no one on the team had used Simio before or had entered a technical paper contest. Dr. Mykoniatis really encouraged us to enter this competition and was there to support us throughout the entire process. The Auburn industrial and systems engineering faculty is truly one of a kind. The team is so excited that we took this chance and that it paid off."

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, cmontgomery@auburn.edu, 334.844.3668

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