International Competition and Three Bradley Graduate Students bring Home the Gold

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September 12, 2012

Two dedicated faculty members and three incredible graduate students competed in an International Competition on Research and Innovation on Demand Forecasting sponsored by Caterpillar, INC. All of their hard work and ingenuity paid off and they beat out other international universities that were working on this project with PHD research students. 

Dr. Chris Nikolopoulos was the principal investigator and project leader while Dr. Ross Fink acted as a consultant with the group. John Griffith, a MS student expecting to graduate in 2013, Shua Murtaza and Shashwati Ramteke, both MS students who graduated in 2012, were awarded first place. Their work was supported through a research grant awarded to Dr. Nikolopoulos by Caterpillar for the 2011-2012 academic years. It was a one year research project the students were paid as research assistants from the grant monies and were to try and stick to 20 hours a week on this project, all the while being full time graduate students with graduate assistantships. 

The Cat Logistics and Research Innovation Team selected the participating universities. The top 3 finishers were: First PlaceBradley University, Second PlaceBrunel University in London, Third PlaceTsinghua University in Beijing. All of the competing institutions are excellent in engineering/sciences, with world rank Tsinghua is about 40 and Brunel is ranked about 150. Tsinghua is known as the “MIT” of China.

The research addressed the challenge of forecasting demand for parts with intermittent demand history. The Bradley team used innovative techniques from the areas of machine learning and data mining, primarily neural networks, genetic algorithms and decision tree approaches to build their winning forecasting system. Each team was graded on key elements such as service level, profit, return on net assets and inventory turns. The systems were tested by Caterpillar on a “blind” test set. Caterpillar hopes this research will lead to improved forecasting methods for future demand of parts with intermittent demand history signal.

Mid June there was a three day conference at Cat Logistics in Morton. All three schools were brought here and they toured facilities and research centers in East Peoria, Mossville, and Morton. On Weds June 20, 2012 the university research teams and internal Caterpillar teams presented their research to the Cat Logistics Research and Innovation Department as well as key department heads. 

Nikolopoulos said “The competing universities were among the best in the world, so it made it especially gratifying for our students and us to win this competition. Our students were able to use principles we teach in Artificial Intelligence, Intelligent Systems and Data Mining classes to deliver a far superior forecasting approach than the traditional statistical techniques alone.”

All three graduate students endless possibilities have opened up for them. John Griffith is looking at PHD programs and now has the opportunity with this award and recognition to attend almost any institution he wants. Actually one of the competing universities made him a nice offer but he is determined to take his time and consider all of his options. Shashwati Ramteke was involved in another research robotics project on campus and through both of her experiences she has been able to hone in what her career. She currently is employed at State Farm. Shua Murtaza unfortunately moved to Houston. All three students and each professor were given individual trophies. 

So congratulations!  We will be featuring as many of these wonderful stories that we can in the near future to let you know what is happening here on campus.  Till next time – The Graduate School