Rethink Collaboration: Mark Lehto

Lehto wosk with HUB and allows real-time collaboration

HUB allows students, businesses to collaborate in real time

For years, Purdue University’s industrial engineering students have performed projects during their capstone senior design class that have helped companies resolve operational issues and improve efficiency. Now, with the help of HUB-CI, they are solving problems faster, more thoroughly and with less face-to-face time.

HUB-CI is a "Collaborative Initiative" extension of Purdue's HUBzero capabilities, which makes it easy for project teams to share analytical results and create consensus conclusions while interacting with their clients in real time through the Internet. With HUB-CI, students can collaborate on research with team members and client representatives to create effective facility designs, discover the best operational procedures and present their findings without ever leaving campus.

HUBzero, developed by Purdue researchers, is a platform used to create websites for scientific research and educational activities. HUBzero provides the power to perform extensive analysis and allows access to a wide array of application tools. It also allows researchers to publish research software and materials more easily on the Web.

HUB-CI takes this platform one step further, allowing students, researchers and companies to actually collaborate through the website. They are able to view the work each person is doing, monitor progress and discuss projects in real time. The result is a virtual laboratory where students and industrial engineering clients can come together.

Mark Lehto, IE Professor and Director of the Industrial Engineering Discovery-to-Delivery Center, said HUB-CI has greatly enhanced his IE senior design class. Students work in teams to resolve design and operational issues for companies.

These companies vary from discrete parts manufacturing, to continuous process production, to health care providers, to other forms of service. HUB-CI technology allows clients and also other students to view the work done on various company issues and to also make comments and suggestions.

In addition to solving real world problems, Lehto says that the senior design class also provides an attractive benefit for IE students and partner companies in that both the students and the companies actually learn from each other. In most instances, the students are exposed to the way real companies operate and the companies discover how industrial engineering methods can help their operations and improve their bottom line.

With HUB-CI, these lessons are learned much quicker.

"Instead of waiting a couple of weeks after the students have done their presentations to access information, our partner companies are able to access it immediately, because we require students to upload all of this material," Lehto says. “During the presentation, the client is able to see streaming video, the final reports and all of the different work projects."

The senior design class worked with 25 companies this spring and HUB-CI was utilized in most of these projects.

"The students get to learn practical things that are hard to teach in the classroom,” Lehto says. “We have them out in the companies and other organizations solving real-world problems. It’s also good for the company, because they get a transfer of knowledge from Purdue. Many of our sponsoring organizations aren’t familiar with industrial engineering and what we have to offer to solve their problems."

HUB-CI is simultaneously giving students and clients a buzz of excitement and solutions to real problems, making it easier to integrate academia and “the real world.”