Demonstrating Impact

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.


  • A Systems Approach to Incentivizing Adoption of Electric Vehicles in Virginia

    In March 2021, Commonwealth of Virginia Governor Northam approved an act to amend the Code of Virginia relating to electric vehicle rebate program to establish an Electric Vehicle Rebate Program for the purchase of new and used electric motor vehicles to provide an incentive to increase electric vehicle awareness and adoption in the Commonwealth.  The  project involved using a systems approach, to develop a framework and options that assists the Electric Vehicle Rebate Program Advisory Council in carrying out its responsibilities for monitoring and adjusting program to increase awareness and adoption of electric vehicles and related programs.  This included providing analytical support that the Council could use to develop recommendations on how best to raise awareness and promote adoption of EVs and also to nominate relevant metrics that could be used to evaluate the success (or status) of the program over time to determine how best to achieve the program goals.


  • A Systems Approach to Solid Waste Management at the University of Virginia

    The University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved UVA’s updated sustainability goals to include a more aggressive approach to achieving a more sustainable future.  UVA solid waste is distributed among multiple waste generators and solid waste goes in multiple directions to various destinations.  About 80% of the total waste generated is either recycled (about 25%) or sent to the landfill (about 55%).  The remainder is either non-municipal waste (about 18%) or regulated medical waste (about 3%). This project was to assist the Sustainability Program Manager in developing an action plan for achieving the waste footprint goal, taking into account the full range of competing and complementing sustainability goals and the requirement to meet the growing needs of a thriving academic institution.


  • A Systems Approach to Estimating Truck Traffic, Weights, and Configurations in Virginia

    This study focuses specifically on Transportation Research Board (TRB) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reports that identify data  needed to support truck size and weight decisions.  The study draws heavily a proposed research topic presented in the TRB Truck Size and Weight Research Roadmap to develop truck traffic, weight, and configuration databases necessary for truck size and weight research and evaluations.  The project was to use a systems approach to develop methods for estimating truck traffic, weights, and configurations of currently deployed heavy vehicles for use in evaluating truck size and weight policy decisions.  The project included 1) identifying appropriate data sources, 2) demonstrating how those data can be used to develop estimates of truck traffic, weights, and configurations on roadways within the Commonwealth of Virginia, 3) characterizing the residual uncertainty in the estimates and the primary sources of uncertainty, and 4) identifying data and/or knowledge shortfalls that need to be address to reduce uncertainty in the estimates and how the data and/or knowledge might be obtained.


  • Just Transition Fund Investment Strategy

    The Just Transition Fund (JTF) aims to create economic opportunity in places hardest hit by the transition away from coal. JTF uses a new philanthropic approach—acting as both a grant maker and nonprofit innovator—to help scale community-based economic and workforce development models that create a pathway to prosperity for coal workers and communities. One of the challenges that the Fund faces is determining how best to allocate available resources, in terms of both financial support and technical assistance. Using a systems approach, the three project teams determined how best to assist the JTF in making investment decisions that achieve the Fund’s objectives for strengthening local economies; building communities that work for all, prioritizing workers and low-income people; and advancing environmentally-sustainable, low-carbon solutions. This effort resulted in scalable strategies that can be applied to clusters of similar communities where the opportunities for expansion are sufficiently large to merit investment and the strategies can be tailored to the community.


  • Energy Management at the University of Virginia

    UVA has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, relative to 2009, by 2025. The Senior Associate Director of Utilities and Energy is responsible for the procurement, generation, and distribution of energy and utilities to more than 500 buildings encompassing over 16 million gross square feet at UVA in Charlottesville, and for helping the University meet its energy and sustainability goals. UVA’s electric energy is procured from Dominion Virginia Power with a minor fraction generated by on-grounds solar panels. UVA’s fossil fuel portfolio consists of mainly coal and natural gas, supplemented by oil. The natural gas infrastructure is owned and operated by the City of Charlottesville and purchased on the open market. Coal is purchased from a contracted supplier and transported to UVA via rail. Currently, if UVA wants to eliminate coal, there is a gap between how much natural gas UVA can receive from the City, and the University’s total demand. The three project teams assisted the Energy & Utility Team in developing multiple approaches based on the main objectives of the University and Facilities Management. The cost-effective methods meet current and projected energy needs of the University of Virginia while achieving UVA’s sustainability goal.


  • Operating Room Scheduling at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, Richmond, VA

    As the Bon Secours Health System has grown to include more facilities, more surgical groups practicing in more locations, the problems associated with operating room scheduling have grown more complex. Using a systems approach, the project team determined 1) how best to schedule operating rooms at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, given the multi-institutional context, and 2) how best to plan and implement operating room turnaround procedures at St. Mary’s such that operating room availability is maximized. These objectives had to be achieved in a manner that provides excellent patient care and an excellent patient experience while accommodating the needs and preferences of surgical teams and other personnel to the greatest extent possible.

  • Impact Assessment for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

    As the nation’s leading voice on mental health, NAMI seeks to be more diligent in assessing the impact of its various programs and activities in raising awareness and providing support and education to individuals and families affected by mental illness. Using a systems approach, the project team determined how best to assess the impact NAMI’s programs have toward achieving their mission using data from NAMI national data sources and, where possible, from state and local affiliates and other sources. The team developed a framework for capturing, organizing, cleaning, analyzing, and displaying and visualizing data, and they identified key indicators to support senior leaders in making evidence-based decisions regarding programming and investment priorities.

  • Crowd-sourcing of high-resolution map data for State Departments of Transportation

    In order to drive, automated vehicles need very high-resolution maps that include things like precise locations of stop bars, lane configurations, and shoulder widths that are not on most traditional maps. One approach for generating detailed maps involves using GPS traces from vehicles traveling through a corridor. The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Research Data Environment (RDE) has data from multiple Field Operational Test and Demonstration Projects, including data from 2700 vehicles that participated in the Safety Pilot Deployment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Using a systems approach, the project team developed and applied techniques for extracting intersection layouts and lane configurations from the Ann Arbor data, along with guidance for whether this is a feasible approach for developing detailed descriptions of roadway features. They estimated how much data are needed to achieve a given level of accuracy and offered suggestions regarding how these data could be used to inform State DOTs about the conditions of the roadway and related travel patterns.


  • UVA Health System

    Improving the Patient Experience and Efficiency of an Emergency Department in Transition

    In 2014, the UVA Health System’s Emergency Department (ED) served 58,944 patients. ED leadership wants to improve their performance on key measures such as reducing “Door to MD Seen” time – the time from the patient’s arrival until a doctor sees the patient. The Health System is planning a long-term expansion of its ED services, to be completed in 2019. In the meantime, the current ED will undergo a physical redesign of its frontend operations. Using a systems approach, the project team determined how best to utilize the front-end expansion plans to improve patient flow in the ED during and following the expansion. The team considered both the physical layout of the ED and the processes and staffing patterns required to support ED operations.

  • Truck Parking

    A Systems Approach to Meeting the Need for Safe, Reliable, and Convenient Access to Parking for Commercial Vehicles
    After long, grueling drives commercial motor vehicle operators need a safe area to rest. Certain states’ departments of transportation experience a demand for commercial vehicle parking at rest areas that surpasses their accommodations. The FHWA Office of Freight Management requested assistance in developing and evaluating alternative strategies for addressing the need for truck parking. Using the systems approach, the project team analyzed relevant influencing parameters to develop creative and efficient solutions. Their planning skills helped address varying levels of adoption while always maintaining highway safety standards.

  • Off-Hours Delivery

    A Systems Approach to Reducing Congestion, Improving Air Quality, and Enhancing Public Safety in Urban Goods Delivery
    Traffic congestion has serious economic and environmental implications. The FHWA Office of Freight Management requested assistance in developing and evaluating strategies for shifting some of the demand created by deliveries from peak travel periods to off-peak times. Using the systems approach, the project team determined how best to encourage and sustain off-hours delivery of goods in urban areas. The team analyzed the technology, economic incentives, regulatory considerations, infrastructure investments and other factors relevant to implementing off-hours delivery and the extent to which benefits might be realized under varying levels of adoption.


  • Connected Vehicle Data

    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?

  • Arlington County Bicycle/Pedestrian Data

    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.


  • UVa Health System – Telemedicine

    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.

  • FEMA Predictive Analysis

    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. Two 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.


  • Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center – Improving Service Delivery and Efficiency

    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.

  • NAVSEA – Northwest Passage and the Shrinking Arctic Icecap

    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.


  • Smart Roadside Initiative

    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.


  • Cancer Center Infusion Center Analysis

    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.


  • Platelet Supply Management

    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.

  • Clinical Laboratories Location

    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).