From agriculture and manufacturing to supply chain management, students from the Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors Program are ready to help businesses achieve their operational goals.
In December, nine student teams from Cohort 34 showcased their semester-long capstone projects during the bi-annual QUEST Capstone Conference at the University of Maryland.
The three-year program brings together undergraduate students from the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Through the program, students are exposed to multidisciplinary, hands-on learning experiences.
The final course of the program, BMGT/ENES 490H QUEST Capstone Professional Practicum, sees teams of four or five students work to provide recommendations to corporate clients. The multidisciplinary nature of the teams lends itself to valuable learning experiences, says Maryland Smith’s Hassan Ibrahim.
“Having multidisciplinary teams gives you those left-brain, right-brain perspectives. Engineering and computer science students bring analytical skills, while the business students look at the bigger picture and provide softer skills including client communication,” says Ibrahim, interim executive director of QUEST. “That balance is so important during our process of crafting cohesive teams and assessing client fit.”
The capstone projects, in particular, are the culmination of the students’ progress, says Jessica Roffe, assistant director of QUEST. The success of each project is a testament to the preparation that the students put in, she says, and it should instill confidence in them as they begin to enter the workforce.
“QUEST students have often expressed how the program provided the most real-world experience and prepared them for what they believed to be their next steps in their careers,” says Roffe. “That’s especially true in this COVID-era when they have been stuck on screens so much. It was so nice for them to be able to work on a team with a real client and see a tangible impact while gaining soft skills and learning about things that are outside their major.”
Maryland Smith senior Emilyn Hyre says she approached the capstone project ready to gain real-world experience and new perspectives from her peers. She says she got that and more.
“I think working with a real-world client helps you learn to adapt and work to meet their demands, which is so important for students,” says Hyre. “Personally, this project introduced me to product management and made me realize that I wanted to pursue more education and potentially a career path in that field.”
A few of the projects highlighted during the event include:
CNH Industrial: Working with the multinational agricultural corporation that spans 12 brands, students assisted the company’s transition to a customer-oriented technology company by improving data collection methods for its smart tractors. Students conducted interviews with farmers to identify major problems and potential opportunities including the readability of sensor data, predictive maintenance and the development of a notification system. The team revamped the company’s app to empower farmers to make more timely, informed decisions on tractor management.
D&H Distributing: The electronics wholesale distributor approached the QUEST program with one goal in mind – addressing inventory management to better anticipate demand, sell quickly and maximize profits. Through collaboration with key stakeholders and producing process flow diagrams to understand the company’s current processes, students recommended expanded training, as well as a dedicated task force to spread awareness of larger reservations to prevent large quantities from becoming aged.
Tronox: The producer and manufacturer of titanium dioxide pigment – used in paints, plastics, and paper – saw its Hamilton, Miss., plant experiencing an increasing number of stockouts and scarcity of repair machine parts. QUEST students stepped in and worked toward improving storeroom efficiency by conducting data analysis through Python and Pandas which provided findings of the items being more likely to be more frequently transacted. The team developed a logging form that will aid analysis for future stockouts and lead to more effective storeroom stocking.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.