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Hackathon introduces young analysts to real-world problems

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Hackathon introduces young analysts to real-world problemsKatherine Anne Giles, a recent MBA grad from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, and Iman Dayarian, a postdoctoral fellow from the University of Toronto, teamed up to win the AIMMS Hackathon. The event, held in conjunction with the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, is designed to help students and young O.R. specialists develop modeling and optimization skills while gaining experience in using AIMMS software to solve complex real-world problems. Hackathon contestants also gained exposure to consulting and the airline industry thanks to the participation of Booz Allen Hamilton and Southwest Airlines.

Each participant received an AIMMS license and a tutorial before the event so they could get familiar with the software. They were also invited to a Google Group where the event sponsors shared some practice problems and trivia questions to familiarize the contestants with optimization, as well as to encourage them to get to know each other and the AIMMS team.

AIMMS partnered with BAH and Southwest to come up with a problem for participants to work on at the Hackathon. Participants received a briefing on the problem at the start of the day, were organized into teams (up to three people per team), worked on the problem with coaching from the sponsors, and presented their model at the end of the day to a panel of judges comprised of officials from AIMMS, BAH and Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines introduced the problem. SWA, BAH and AIMMS worked together leading up to the event to make sure that the problem would be challenging but doable within the time frame. The problem: Network planning departments at airlines and various other types of transportation organizations are always looking to maximize the efficiency and productivity of their networks. Prior to scheduling and routing aircraft, airlines must first come up with a set of frequencies they wish to fly nonstop between two airports within the network. The optimization problem the Hackathon participants were asked to solve focused on maximizing total network profitability by maximizing the efficiency and productivity of the network.

The winning team received $600 in Southwest gift cards.

Industry advisors included Lonny Hurwitz, Rusty Burlingame, Omid Madadi, Aditya Dakshinamoorthy, Abhishek Doshi and Jerry Simone of Southwest Airlines, Alexandra McKeon, Cenk Tunsar and Jerome Yurchinil of Booz Allen Hamilton, and Gertjan de Lange, Deanne Zhang, Marcel Hunting and Haraldur Haraldsson of AIMMS.

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