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Undergraduates Excel at QUEST’s Annual Brumberger Innovation & Consulting Conference

Jan 07, 2010
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On December 10, 2009, 300 people packed the University of Maryland's Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center for the Annual Brumberger Innovation & Consulting Conference held by the                    

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Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors Fellows Program. Named for 2007 alumnus Matthew Brumberger, whose financial support sustains the conference. This event showcases student consulting projects for corporate and nonprofit clients, faculty, parents and peers.

Dr. Joseph Bailey, Executive Director of QUEST and Research Associate Professor of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies, praised the students for their outstanding achievements as part of the QUEST program, as he welcomed attendees to the evening’s capstone event for Cohort 15 seniors.

The projects presented at the event represented the culmination of a semester of work. QUEST, one of the Smith School’s specialized Undergraduate Fellows programs, admits students from the Smith School, the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences.

Henry Lucas, Department Chair and Smith Professor of Information Systems, talked about how innovation drives progress and said, “Through programs like QUEST, we can grow the next generation of innovators that will power the world economy.”

Student teams worked on 12 consulting projects for nine companies and organizations, including: Agilent Technologies, ATK, Bowles Fluidics Corporation, Force 3, GE Healthcare, KPMG, Lockheed Martin, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and SAIC.

The projects gave the companies a chance to see some of the University’s best students in action and gain valuable business solutions, while giving students the opportunity to work with real-life executives on real-life organizational problems. The scopes of the projects were very diverse, ranging from creating a plan to assess markets and customer trends to developing a process to deploy massive power-generating buoys into the ocean.

Every group set up storyboard displays and then presented 10-minute overviews of their projects in breakout sessions. Teams delivered a synopsis of their project, described their methodology, how they conducted benchmarking, and key recommendations.

Representatives from the companies were present at the evening’s festivities and received certificates of appreciation from the teams. The project for GE Healthcare was to recommend connectivity options for the Giraffe Omnibeds and Incubators, used in the treatment of premature babies. David Blair, Engineering Process Manager at GE and the project champion, gave high praise to his student group. He also commented, that he was very impressed with the high quality of the work by the students. He said that after their team started talking with the QUEST students, they realized that the best alternative was not in their original plan and that they planned to move forward with the team’s key recommendations next year. 

After the conference, groups are invited to deliver their presentations to clients on-site, and some students have reported receiving job offers from client companies in the past. Smith student Michele Abbott says, “I think this consulting project was really my first chance to take the lessons and theories I had learned in class and apply them to a real-life situation that culminates in something more tangible than a grade. Interacting with the company itself put me on a whole new playing field. The final culmination of the project came when we went to GE to present our findings and recommendations before the whole team we worked with, as well as some of their top directors. All listened closely to our methodology and development process and asked relevant and tough questions that showed they were taking us seriously. After the presentation we were able to sit down and participate in a pretty high level discussion of the implications of our findings. The long-term goal of the company's connectivity initiative is to remain the same, however, our recommendation was to change the short-term program and reallocate time and resources towards a program that will give them a competitive edge in the future ... There is more sensitivity analysis for the company to look at before they make a decision, but the fact that they are considering our recommendations makes all the work of this semester worth it.”

Several companies have forged strong relationships with the QUEST program and continue to participate in contracting student teams for projects each year. 

Alissa Arford-Leyl, Office of Marketing Communications

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