Capstone Projects

Each year, the Accelerated Master’s Program in Systems Engineering culminates with an intensive design project involving a large-scale complex system of major significance. Students working together in project teams apply the skills they have gained throughout the year to a real-world problem for a real client. At the end of the final week in residence, the project teams present their results and recommendations to an evaluation panel comprising client representatives, academics, and seasoned professionals.

  • Two teams applied the systems approach to assist the FHWA Office of Transportation Operations Research and Development and the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Joint Project Office (JPO) in answering the following questions: 1) What information and techniques should agencies consider to quantify the potential benefits of connected vehicle and traveler data to actively manage and control traffic within corridors?; and 2) How can data from connected vehicles and travelers be integrated with traditional data sources to support the active management and control of traffic within a corridor?
  • The project team applied the systems approach to provide a strategy for using bicycle and pedestrian count data from Arlington County that would provide value to system users (cyclists and non-cyclists), including concrete steps for implementing the recommendations. The team also developed a strategy for helping Arlington County achieve greater visibility as a bicycle friendly community and for making the area more attractive to bicycle riders.

  • Avoiding Readmissions: Two project teams worked with the UVa Health System Center for Telemedicine and others to identify opportunities for using telemedicine with recently discharged nursing home patients to avoid the need for readmission to the hospital. One of the key findings was that greater attention to discharge planning and real-time monitoring of patients discharged to nursing homes can help avoid the need for medical intervention through earlier detection and treatment of conditions which, left untreated, might lead to readmission.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Administration, through its OpenFEMA initiative and Innovation team, engaged two project teams to determine how best to use past and real-time data before and during crisis events to help identify needs and allocate scarce resources effectively. Project teams developed concepts for mobile device apps that would enable individuals to alert FEMA and other agencies regarding needs for shelter, food, water, and medical attention. They also developed an agent-based model to demonstrate the efficacy of stand-alone wide area broadband wi-fi as a means for collecting data from mobile devices when power and cellular networks fail.

  • Two project teams evaluated patient services at the recently opened Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center to identify ways to improve the patient experience. Patients receive excellent medical care at the ECCCC but scheduling, waiting, and lack of information sometimes resulted in poor perceptions of services. The teams observed patient flows, studied scheduling procedures and work flow, and documented key patient non-clinical interactions. They offered recommendations for improving communications with patients, reducing waiting times that result from inefficient scheduling, and providing better advance and on-site information for patients.
  • With growing concerns about climate change and its effect on global weather patterns and sea levels comes one “opportunity” that will likely result in increasing activity in the Arctic as the Arctic Icecap shrinks: the possibility of moving people and goods from Europe to the Pacific Rim in about 60% of the time currently required. This study sought to determine the implications of the opening of the Northwest Passage to commercial shipping, resource extraction, tourism, and other activities for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. There continues to be considerable uncertainty regarding if and when such activity will actually occur given 1) the uncertainty regarding the availability of an ice free NW passage, 2) the economics of choosing the NW passage route, 3) the international agreements regarding use of the Arctic region for transportation and resource exploration, and 4) the investment in infrastructure to support activity in the Arctic region. The challenge for the Navy and the Coast Guard is whether or not to make basing and investment decisions now to support these activities since the time required to develop new systems precludes waiting until the extent of Arctic melting is known with sufficient certainty to predict the level of activity likely to occur.

  • Four teams supported the FHWA Office of Freight Management, the FMCSA Office of Technology, and the RITA/ITSJPO in investigating and proposing strategies for encouraging widespread adoption of wireless roadside technologies and procedures, leading to safety enhancements and improvements in motor carrier and safety enforcement productivity.

  • The planned opening of the new Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center (ECCCC) in 2011 generated a new emphasis on creating a patient-centered approach conducive to delivering high quality care in an aesthetically appealing environment; however, some of the ways in which patients were scheduled, informed, and directed through existing facilities created some confusion among patients and were less efficient than desired. Two project teams examined patient scheduling and management procedures and offered recommendations on how patient services could be improved while continuing to deliver exceptional medical services.

  • Blood platelets require special treatment because they must be maintained at room temperature and cannot be stored for more than a few days before becoming ineffective. However, the demand for blood platelets varies and therefore careful management of the platelet supply is essential. This study looked at the platelet supply chain and developed recommendations for ensuring an adequate supply of platelets while minimizing loses due to expiration prior to use.
  • The UVa Medical Center’s clinical laboratories operate a decentralized system of laboratories and related functions so that high volume tests are performed in a central lab that is in a separate facility which is connected by a pneumatic tube system, and lower volume, quick turnaround labs are co-located or located nearby the services they support. This study looked at the way the lab’s activities are organized and how performance is measured in the context of medical testing and reporting. A major recommendation was to consider the “total turnaround time” for laboratory tests (from time of order until the results are reported to the physician and patient) rather than the internal turn around time (from receipt of specimen to completion of test).