Public Service Projects

Every spring, the Operations Research Department offers a three-credit course, OR 350, to provide its students with a hands-on experience in solving real-world problems using the techniques of operations research. During the previous Fall, the faculty member who serves as the course coordinator solicits problems from potential clients in government, industry, and from administrative and operating units within the University. (A table of 45 past projects and clients is available.) The instructor next identifies those problems amenable to solution by operations research techniques within the fourteen-week spring semester. At the first session of the course, each enrolled student is assigned a client and given a short outline of the client's problem. Working with the client, the student prepares a written description of the problem and a proposed method of solution based on data availability and modeling considerations. The student also chooses a faculty member within the Operations Research Department to serve as her or his principal advisor on technical issues. When the problem has been solved and the analysis of results is complete, the student prepares a written report and makes an oral presentation to the client and her or his staff describing all findings and their implications.

During the semester, students formulate their problems in quantitative terms and identify appropiate methods for solution. They also identify data needs, arrange to obtain and analyze the data, and write and execute computer programs required to generate solutions. They consult with clients and their staffs on a regular basis, partly for problem clarification and partly to determine the suitability of proposed solutions. At the regular course sessions during the semester, each enrolled student periodically describes her or his progress and the course coordinator and remaining enrolled students offer critiques of the project's development. All Operations Research faculty are available to enrolled students as consultants with regard to problem formulation, methodology, and interpretation of results. The emphasis throughout the course is on having the student assume responsibility for virtually all aspects of her or his project.

To illustrate the type of reports that students prepare for their clients, the executive summaries from the final reports for several recent projects are available:

Spring 1998

Spring 1997

Spring 1996

Spring 1995