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Students Develop Workflow App for GE

July 19, 2017

From left: Andrew Corp, BCOS ’18; Assistant Professor Chen-Hsiang (Jones) Yu; Andrew Cahill, interim director of EPIC Learning and Accelerate; and Joseph O’Hara, BCOS ’18

Around the time that General Electric (GE) was breaking ground on its new headquarters in Fort Point Channel, a group of Wentworth students across town were wrapping up a project to streamline GE’s workflow.

It all started when GE announced that it was moving to Boston and that officials were interested in collaborating with area universities. Charlie Wiseman, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Networking, considered a partnership between GE and Wentworth and contacted Assistant Professor Chen-Hsiang (Jones) Yu.

Wiseman believed that Yu—who has a PhD in web and mobile technologies from MIT—would be perfect to lead research focused on refining the production-line process in GE factories, specifically GE Aviation. In October 2016, Yu conceptualized an app and brought the idea to his students.

Over the next eight months, Yu, along with students Andrew Corp, BCOS ’18; Joseph O’Hara, BCOS ’18; Jishnu Thakuria, BCOS ’17; Shirshak Sharma, BCOS ’18; and Eddie Penta, BCOS ’18, developed the app. Amanda VanderPol of GE Aviation offered direction and technical leadership from the industry side.

“GE factories are open 24 hours, with multiple shifts,” says Yu. “Some of the shifts overlap, and we felt like we could better streamline the process.”

GE could not disclose the specifics of their work, so Yu and his students focused on general workflow issues outlined by GE supervisors. The Wentworth team knew that they need to find a way to help GE better allocate human resources during shift changes.

“The students have great implementation skills,” says Yu. “I helped take them through the industry side of things.”

The app would allow employees to register themselves more accurately for work and help supervisors better keep track of which areas in the factory needed more resources, particularly during line shift changes.

Yu’s team built an Android-based app from the ground up, from wireframing to creating the app and everything in between. The team went through problem refinement, analysis, UI/UX design, implementation and usability test before presenting the app to GE.

In June, Yu and two of the students, Corp and O’Hara, officially presented their ideas to the leadership of GE Aviation Greenville, as well as members of GE plants in Cincinnati and Michigan. Corp, who has two years of Android app development experience, focused on the front end of the project. O’Hara, who came in with four years of software development experience, focused on server design.

“Based on what we viewed, the students delivered an app worthy of further review and possible implementation,” says Joseph Bourgeois, production supervision manager at GE Aviation.

Andrew Cahill, interim director of EPIC Learning and Accelerate, Wentworth’s innovation and entrepreneurship center, believes that the GE project provided students with the kind of real-world education on which Wentworth prides itself.

“In addition to computer science-based learning, these students gained insight into aviation, manufacturing, and scheduling,” says Cahill. “They also learned about interacting with a client (GE), deadlines, and listening (to feedback).”

--Greg Abazorius

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