Stevens Students Develop Simulation Models for Optimizing Shuttle Service in Antarctica

Navigating the South Pole


It’s remote, icy, and for most part, an inhospitable region at the end of the earth. But for researchers, Antarctica is a natural laboratory providing an amazing opportunity to investigate and study processes that are crucial from a national and global perspective.

In 2013, Stevens Institute of Technology was invited by Lockheed Martin to assist in the ‘Virtual Antarctica’ project – to develop simulations of all the operational processes and activities that occur at McMurdo station, Antarctica’s largest research center.

“Tackling the logistical challenges of supporting scientific research at the highest driest, coldest, windiest and emptiest place on Earth, is a Herculean task,” said Dr. Mo Mansouri, assistant professor, School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE), and the Virtual Antarctica project lead.

“Our goal is to test and manipulate scenarios in a virtual environment and create critical intelligence that will enable better decision making for logistics at McMurdo station: medical facilities, communications, transportation, shipping, emergency response, housing, food services, science support, environmental protection, research vessels, and much more.”

As exposing students to real world situations and preparing them for their future careers is one of the strategic goals at Stevens, Dr. Mansouri outsourced a part of the Virtual Antarctica project to a group of five undergraduate Engineering Management students.

For their Senior Design Project, Cerille Avetria, Matthew Chang, Dylan Feldman, Anne Fodor, and Christie Gamon, seniors in the Engineering Management program at SSE were assigned the task of developing simulations to optimize the shuttle operations that transport passengers from the international arrival and departures section of the Pegasus runway to McMurdo base station.

“The aim of the project was two-fold; to simulate and document the current shuttle operation at the station, and secondly, to alter/manipulate the current operation in a virtual environment and come up with a more efficient and cost-effective shuttle process,” said Matthew Chang.

“The project was a great opportunity to work on a small portion of a huge real world problem, and to apply our systems knowledge to an important cause,” said Dylan Feldman.

“It was an incredible experience working on a project in Antarctica – albeit virtually. From identifying and analyzing the existing shuttle process at McMurdo, to creating alternate prototype shuttle service models that would be optimal in functioning, and support research operations in Antarctica, the process reinforced all the systems and project management education that we have received at Stevens.”

“We will take away the skills developed in working as a team, gathering requirements and managing deadlines,” said Christie Gamon.  To get a hands-on experience on how a large systems network functions; the several inter-dependent parts that exist in a system, and how while finding a solution to a small part of the problem it is vital to keep the whole big system in perspective is something that cannot be learnt in the classroom.”

According to faculty advisor, Eirik Hole, SSE, “This project is a fantastic example of what we want the Senior Design experience to be for our Engineering Management students. The students have to integrate everything they have learned during their time here at Stevens and figure out how to apply it to a real world problem for a real client. The transformation over the two semesters from students who expect their Professor to tell them what to do and how to do it, into fledgling professionals that can take a challenge and run with it never ceases to amaze me.”

This project will be displayed at the Stevens Innovation Expo held on April 30th on the Stevens campus, an annual, one-day, campus-wide event that displays the extensive research and innovation accomplishments of faculty and students.