Winners' Spotlight: Old Dominion University Engineering Management Team

The Old Dominion University Engineering Management Team competed in 2017’S Innovation Challenge with their solution, iHELP. They won. Here is their story. 

  1. Tell us a little bit about your project.

The idea of the project is to use advanced methods of computer simulation and optimization to help emergency and nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) to manage and optimize the logistics in humanitarian situations. Specifically, we proposed a platform we called iHELP (Integrated Humanitarian Emergency Logistics Planning platform) to identify need requests from various channels including social media and formal emergency sources and meet these needs in an optimized manner. This includes loading humanitarian relief and other resources and personnel onto available transporter of various types to best meet the demand and minimize the transportation time. This is a complex problem from the field of Operations Research known as the multi-commodity multi-mode transportation problem which requires sophisticated computational methods to match commodity types and amounts with available capacitated transporters and decide on the best routes to take to minimize the time it takes to deliver the commodities.  

  1. What inspired you to join the NATO Innovation Challenge?

iHELP was actually inspired by a research project that was sponsored by the logistics branch at NATO ACT and executed by Professors Ghaith Rabadi and Mamadou Seck from the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Old Dominion University to simulate and optimize the logistics of military deployment of personnel, vehicles and cargo from certain NATO nations to certain cities via various transportation modes of air, sea and land. The problem is similar to the humanitarian logistics problem but in a different context and with different constraints and levels of uncertainty.


  1. What was it like to win?

Actually it was surprising and very exciting especially that our team from ODU was competing with some established companies with some interesting products. We think that the judges appreciated our proposed approach because it was a natural fit for a complex and practical problem that was dictated by NATO's Global Challenge competition scenario.


  1. What would you say to future competitors?

Innovate and do not be afraid to propose bold ideas.


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