Philip Peker ’18, a student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, writes about the QUEST Honors Capstone Consulting Conference on Dec. 8, 2016.
The QUEST Honors Program is one of the most prestigious and rigorous honors programs at the University of Maryland. It brings together the most talented students from the Smith School of Business, the Clark School of Engineering and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences in order to provide a hands-on, multidisciplinary experience that focuses on process improvement, quality management, and system design.
On Thursday, Dec. 8, the QUEST Honors Program hosted its bi-annual QUEST Conference to celebrate its students. This conference is the culminating event for students in the capstone course, BMGT/ENES 490H. At the conference, the students presented their semester-long consulting projects in which they worked on real projects, sponsored by nine companies. The Riggs Alumni Center was illuminated with the energy and excitement of over 300 students, alumni, corporate partners, proud parents, and UMD affiliates.
The event began around 5:15 p.m., with featured speaker Patrick O’Reilly, who is the president and COO of Applied Predictive Technologies. He spoke about current trends in technology, such as machine learning, big data and predictive analytics and its ubiquitous impact on business. Afterwards, students presented their posters and projects. The companies that the students worked with included The Advisory Board Company, BD, Caterpillar, GB Shades, Intralox, TAMKO, Tenax, Thales, and Transurban. At 8 p.m., the winners of the “Most Outstanding Capstone” and “Outstanding Project Poster” were announced and closing remarks were made to round out the evening.
The winner of the “Most Outstanding Capstone” (chosen by alumni) was the BD team, made up of Gopal Srinivasan, Basma Hamud, Sandra Soltz, Uva Dayalan, Chris Demek, and led by their project champion Oleg Rusu. As the project liaison as well as coach for the team, Oleg was quick to dodge full credit for getting his team to the top, but he did have a few insights as to what helped his group achieve such success: “You know, anyone can gather information, but it’s what you do with it that counts. This group was very successful in transitioning from information-gathering to recommendation development. I helped add some structure and focus to this pivotal moment, and from there, the group just took off and surpassed expectations.”
The group members themselves were just as relieved as they were proud coming out of the ballroom that night, knowing that their hard work paid off. “This project was very research heavy, so we could not even begin to ideate until we understood every single aspect of the problem at hand,” said Basma Hamud, a winning team member. “We really wanted to get to know the company and the consumers that are buying their products. We managed to take a tour of their manufacturing facilities, and we also really studied the consumers through focus groups and surveys. Once we had the information necessary to make judgements about the current market, we began to see the light. We knew what recommendations to make and which ones to leave out.”
There were two top prizes that evening. While the BD team won “Most Outstanding Capstone,” the Caterpillar Team locked down the “Outstanding Project Poster” prize, as voted by their fellow classmates. The Caterpillar Team consisted of Andrew Katz, Brian Morris, Michelle He, Victoria Zhao, and Derien Scott. Michelle He, a senior marketing and information systems major, was largely responsible for the design of the poster, and when I talked to her, she told me that the secret behind winning the “Outstanding Project Poster” award was “staying inspired but also focused on the end result. We incorporated material design elements as well as a targeted UX/UI design mentality when constructing our poster so we could communicate our recommendation most effectively.”
It would not be a Smith School event without refreshments and snacks. And so, the evening concluded in a righteous manner, with desserts galore awaiting the hungry and deserving students as well as the rest of the guests. There were plenty of people to thank for the memorable evening, but especially Jessica Macklin, QUEST Program Manager and mentor to many QUEST students.
For more information about QUEST, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/quest.