Michigan Engineering News

Group image of U-M team members Alex Sundt, Xiatong Sun and Yan Zhao with their trophy

University of Michigan student team wins National Transportation Technology Tournament

Team designed solution to reduce congestion on I-75 and I-696 in the Detroit area.

Group image of U-M team members Alex Sundt, Xiatong Sun and Yan Zhao with their trophy
University of Michigan team members Alex Sundt, Xiatong Sun and Yan Zhao with their trophy. Photo: Adam Hopps, National Operations Center of Excellence

A University of Michigan student team won the second annual Transportation Technology Tournament, beating out five other finalists from universities across the country. The tournament is held on by the United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE).

The Michigan team’s winning presentation, Corridor Management in the I-75/I-696 Influence area, focused on mitigating heavy, peak-hour traffic volume on I-75 between Detroit and Troy, Mich. and on east and westbound I-696 in the Detroit suburbs by utilizing shuttles and car pools for major employers like General Motors and Chrysler.

The students presented their solution to a panel of private and public sector judges. Patrick Son, managing director of NOCoE, said Michigan’s solution was imaginative and completely deployable.

“These students developed practical solutions to a problem that has stalled Southeast Michigan for decades,” Son said. “That’s exactly the kind of ingenuity we need as we address crucial workforce issues ahead.”

University of Michigan team member Xiatong Sun, a civil and environmental graduate student, said the other finalist teams proposed competitive ideas.

“We had the confidence after yesterday’s rehearsal, but today we listened to others presentations and we thought they were also very good,” Sun said.

Other team members, Yan Zhao and Alex Sundt said the skills they developed for pitching ideas is crucial as they move into their careers.

“Knowing how to present to government agencies and to important people, and how they want to listen to a presentation, that pitch style, I’ve never gotten that in my education before, so this was a big help,” Sundt, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student, said.

Zhao, a mechanical engineering graduate student, agreed.

“We learned that soft skills are really important,” Zhoa said. “We are used to solving equations and we are used to presenting in front of a lot of academic people but when we solve real-life problems, we have to present our solutions to people who may not be familiar with equations. We have to explain the details and our reasoning behind it. That will be really helpful in my future.”

The tournament took place during the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Annual Meeting in Austin, TX. The University of Michigan team was among five finalist teams to make presentations. The other teams were from Florida International University, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and two teams from the University of South Florida.

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