SEOR Students Win Technology Awards

Posted: May 15, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Teams of undergraduate students from George Mason’s Systems Engineering and Operations Research (SEOR) Department came away with two sets of major award wins within the past few weeks.

The awards stem from the IEEE Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium at the University of Virginia held on April 28 and at the Systems Engineering Capstone Conference at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point held on May 4. Two different SEOR student teams each won two first-place awards at the competitions, a first for the SEOR Department.

One of the project teams, sponsored by Andrew Lacher of the MITRE corporation, studied unmanned aerial collision avoidance systems, dealing specifically with whether unmanned aerial vehicles are as safe as manned aircraft.

“We really worked hard on the project,” says Jose Asmat, a senior majoring in Systems Engineering who was on the team. “We thought we did pretty good as a team. We faced a lot of hardships [such as] decision making, but put the hardships aside.”

The team consisted of team leader Jesica Umansky and team members Asmat, Brett Rhodes, Chris Villavicencio and Amir Yunas, all seniors. Umansky and her team won the Best Paper Award in the Logistics and Transportation Systems Track at UVA and the Best Project Award in the Modeling and Simulation Track at West Point.

The competition win, says Asmat, will help with his academic studies and career prospects. “It not only represented our group, but represented George Mason.”

The other team studied bio-event resource management and won the Best Paper Award in the Risk Analysis Track at UVA and the Best Project Award in the Project Management Track at West Point.

The research team’s findings, which dealt specifically with bioterrorism, are that “cities should stock 15 percent of a required vaccine. The rest should be stored at a [packaging place] like FedEx,” says George Donohue, director of the Air Transport Systems Research Center at George Mason.

Team members included leader Kathryn Yassine, Yasmin Amin, Kim-Lynn Dam, Timothy Nicola and Shery Salama. The group was directed by Donohue and Andrew Loerch, both professors in the SEOR Department, and sponsored by Gilbert Miller of Mitrek Systems.

“The best schools in the country that do undergraduate work in operations research compete in these competitions. They are the only competitions of this kind in the world,” says Donohue. Colleges that have undergraduate departments for systems engineering are rare, he adds.

As a director for the undergraduate teams, Donohue says he feels pressure to continue Mason’s past success. Since 2001, his teams have won first-place awards at either the UVA or West Point competitions. Last year, a team won two first-place finishes at both UVA and West Point.

“We have been going since 2001, and we have always won at least one first-place award.”

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