U of M student competition focuses on the sharing economy

This spring, the U of M’s Initiative on the Sharing Economy sponsored a student competition designed to encourage research and innovation on sharing economy topics.

As part of the contest, two student teams identified transportation-related challenges and proposed solutions using a sharing economy approach. After receiving feedback and guidance on their initial ideas from the Initiative’s advisory board, teams had three months to develop and refine their solutions, meet with campus and community partners, and compile their findings into a final presentation. In May, projects were evaluated by the advisory board based on their relevance, research methodology, and impact.

The winning team, which received a $1,000 prize, included Shannon Evans Engstrom, John Fleming, and Lynda Chao, all master’s students in urban and regional planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Their project proposed the development of GPHR, an app-driven last-mile package delivery system that could be piloted on the U of M Twin Cities campus. The system’s goal is to eliminate the need for freight carriers to idle in lots for long periods of time, save delivery companies cost, and improve delivery efficiency.

Using GPHR to make deliveries, student couriers would receive turn-by-turn directions from an app that leverages an open-sourced digital map of campus and augmented reality wayfinding technology. This would enable anyone to be a courier with minimal training, regardless of their experience, familiarity with campus, or language ability. Eventually, the system could be expanded to other universities, large corporate campuses, or dense central business districts.

The second-place project focused on innovative ways to motivate ride sharing. Team members were Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering students Kang Kang, Bingnan Lu, Zicheng Wang, and Xiaotang Yang.

 As part of the project, the team explored how such factors as the size of a car-sharing fleet and the introduction of platform-owned vehicles as a buffer for those unable to find a match could affect individuals’ willingness to participate in ride sharing.

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