Innovation happens when universities partner with K-12 on IT-enabled solutions

When Boston Public Schools (BPS) decided it was time to reconfigure its bus routing and timing operations, it also realised this overhaul was something too cumbersome for staff members to figure out on their own. The district opened the challenge to technology and academic leaders in what they called 'a three-month hackathon-style initiative'. The winner, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), produced an algorithm that would do just what BPS wanted: Improve the routing system from a cost, efficiency and community engagement perspective. The algorithm was devised by doctoral students Arthur Delarue and Sébastien Martin as part of a team with Dimitris Bertsimas, faculty lead of entrepreneurship at MIT Jameel Clinic and MIT’s Operations Research Centre.

Dimitris' team ran data received from the the school district along with data from Google Maps, students’ addresses, school start times and Boston traffic patterns, and produced an algorithm that would generate the best routes, strategically reconfigure bus stops, maximise the number of students riding each bus and reduce the amount of time buses travel when no students are on board. Two years later, the number of trips district buses have to make are down by almost 400 and the system is 20% more efficient. The new model of bus routing also saved the school system millions of dollars that could be re-invested back into schools.

EdTech Magazine