QUEST Lends a Hand to the Purple Line

By: Anusha Dixit (Q31)

The disruption of Campus Drive starting this past fall was hard to miss – from the switch to one-way traffic to roundabout sidewalk routes for pedestrians. This currently omnipresent disruption is the result of the Purple Line, set to open in fall 2022 and connect both the campus and surrounding areas to the rest of Prince George’s County and Montgomery County. It will streamline commuting between the two counties and impact on-campus transportation patterns significantly.

At first glance, it’s hard to tell how this has anything to do with QUEST. What does a new light rail line, opening in three years, have to do with students currently in the program?

Enter 490H. This semester, Cohort 29 students are taking the QUEST Capstone Professional Practicum course, BMGT/ENES 490H, applying and enhancing all the skills they have learned in their time in QUEST to provide recommendations to corporate clients. The results of these projects all have significant stakes in the real world, impacting organizational structure and future plans at an essential level.

Cohort 29 students Puneeth Bikkumanla, Michael Khizgilov, Sasha Miller, Mary Smith, and Kelli Webber, collectively Team [Kim]ley Possible, are working with Kimley-Horn, a planning and design engineering consulting firm, for their capstone. The project involves providing Kimley-Horn recommendations for alternative transportation options over the next 20 years at the University of Maryland. This involves taking into consideration planned changes in transportation, such as the Purple Line, as well as developing technologies that will likely become significantly more important in the next few decades, such as self-driving cars and foreseeing how these additions will affect any predictions made.

I spoke with Sasha Miller about her team’s work thus far in the semester. Already, the application of skills learned in previous QUEST classes is tangible. “The whole project involves analyzing large amounts of data and creating predictive models based on the information that we gather, which are concepts covered in both 390H and in the data analysis class, 438A,” she said. On working with the client, she reports: “Working with Kimley-Horn is great! Our project champion Mike Shindledecker is a QUEST alumnus so he is very excited and eager to work with our team.”

One of the great challenges of 490H projects is ensuring the clients’ needs are met and this team is going above and beyond to ensure this happens. One of their primary challenges is accounting for all of the different user groups on campus (i.e. staff, commuters, cyclists) in their models. “Our team really wants to give predictions and recommendations that will better the campus not only for students, but everyone on campus, which is an ambitious goal, but something we really hope to achieve,” says Sasha. This project holds a uniquely relatable component for the team, affecting the Maryland community at large and requiring the team to consider the student perspective at close range. One of the most interesting aspects of the project is its relevance to the Maryland community and the opportunity it provides to better the campus for students.

Cohort 29 will be presenting their 490H projects at the QUEST Conference on May 9, 2019. Make sure to come out and see the thrilling final recommendations from [Kim]ley Possible and the rest of Cohort 29!

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