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Students give snow removal advice to NDDOT

Posted: Feb 22, 2006

The Fargo District of the North Dakota DOT received advice on its snow removal routes from students at NDSU while the students received a real-world introduction to applications for the theories they're learning in class.

Canan Bilen-Green, an assistant professor in NDSU's industrial and manufacturing engineering department, teaches engineering 770, a graduate-level course on quantitative modeling. The course is required for students earning a Ph.D. in transportation and logistics.

"I wanted to bring a real modeling problem to the class for them to work on," notes Bilen-Green. In consultation with Denver Tolliver and Kurt Johnson at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at NDSU, Bilen-Green approached the North Dakota DOT and asked if the class could apply their modeling techniques to snow removal in the Fargo district.

Troy Gilbertson, maintenance coordinator for the district met with the students and gave them a tour featuring stockpiles of sand and salt and snow removal equipment. He also provided information on plowing routes, plowing priorities, equipment types and capabilities, and equipment and stockpile locations.

"I look forward to meeting with anyone who has a different perspective on how we do things," Gilbertson says. "And the students came up with some pretty interesting ideas."

Bilen-Green says the students researched approaches to snow-removal modeling, divided the issue into segments and each student developed modeling code for their particular segment. At the end of the class, the students presented their results to Gilbertson and others at the DOT.

"This was basically a good start," she says. "This is a complex modeling problem and we have not solved it completely by any means. "We did show the students how to approach a problem like this and apply the techniques they're learning in class. The interaction with the DOT was good for the students. They could see how to work with a real problem and see the limitations of some of the techniques we were studying."

Gilbertson agreed that much of the students' work will not have a direct application to DOT operations, but it was an opportunity to familiarize students with real-world DOT maintenance and operation challenges. "And hearing their presentations gets you thinking about how we might do things differently."

Published in NDSU's staff newsletter
It's Happening at State
Feb. 22, 2006

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