Ball State students help shape the future of air travel through immersive learning

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With in-depth dives on how to keep the public safe and healthy after COVID-19, Ball State University Informatic Systems the students analyzed society’s expectations for air travel and discovered what could be done to help them meet them.

For their immersive learning projects, more than 30 students worked with the Indianapolis Airport Authority, owner and operator of the award-winning Indianapolis International Airport (IND), during the 2020-2021 academic year. The second semester ended with students presenting the airport authority with a strategic plan focused on what travel might look like to 2026.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to work on a current real-life event,” said Megan Gish Carrico, ’12, director of public affairs at the Indianapolis Airport Authority, of the immersive learning opportunities. “It’s not theoretical; it happens in real time.

“We are all experiencing the impact of COVID-19 together and we are tasked with planning for an unknown future,” said Matt Smith ’09, applications IT manager for the Indianapolis Airport Authority. “The Ball State Project has helped us analyze corporate and travel trends to make sure we are providing the best customer service. “

The students were divided into six teams. Each team looked at part of the passenger experience: pre-airport, pre-security, security, post-security, arrivals, and orientation signage. To provide an overview of the greater complexity of the airport environment, the students worked with experts in planning and development, air service, parking, retail, public affairs, IT and public safety, as well as with the director Indiana Federal Security from the Transportation Security Administration. (TSA).

Limits of COVID

With Indy Airport seeing a sharp decline in normal passenger traffic at the time, airport staff jumped at the opportunity to work with Ball State and its students to better prepare for the present and the future. ‘to come up.

“All of the companies I was looking for immersive learning projects were reluctant to take on a student project during the pandemic,” said Fred kitchens, associate professor of Information systems and operations management, and the former professor of Mr. Smith. “Matt offered to work with six teams on six different projects. He said the airport was trying to understand not only how to handle the pandemic, but also how to deal with post-pandemic changes in society, travel expectations and better prepare for any future pandemic situation that could. occur. ”

Ball State students help shape the future of air travel through immersive learning

These immersive learning projects were unlike any students have experienced before. COVID-19 has radically changed the way they research, interact with airport workers, and work with their teams.

Every meeting with airport staff was virtual. There was a time when 14 of the 31 older people were in quarantine. A handful of students had never flown before. So, a student went to the airport to take photos and capture videos in the authorized areas in order to provide a better overview of Indianapolis International Airport to his classmates.

The only option for the students was professionalism and high quality work. They understood that by working on this project, they were putting their Ball State degrees on the line.

“The airport ultimately determined whether our proposed strategic plan was viable,” said Andrew Rattin, ’21, Greenwood, who was the project leader for the pre-security portion of the project. “If they’d said, ‘No. This will not work “, we [would have] failed the class and may not have graduated.

This real-world approach, with its hands-on learning and collaborative and exceptional faculty, has provided the perfect setting for students to continue their lifelong journey towards a fulfilling career and a fulfilling life.

“What attracted me to Ball State was the opportunity to gain real experience in the industry,” said Jason Craft, ’21, Warsaw, who majored in Logistics and supply chain management and Informatic Systems. He was a project manager for the Immersive Learning Security Team. “The opportunity to work with a real client on real issues was truly amazing. We worked in a network with TSA agents and security guards. This is the class where I learned the most. I had the opportunity to struggle, learn and grow thanks to the project.

How your flying experience might change

Faced with a global pandemic, Mr Rattin said it was important to take into account “everything that happens from the moment you walk through the door” at the airport.

“We looked at the key issues in each area,” he continued. “People are nervous and anxious about traveling. How can the airport effectively provide safe health practices to alleviate passenger apprehensions? “

One of the team’s solutions involved real-time heat maps of publicly available airport floor plans so travelers could make informed decisions.

“Someone from the southwest can look at the area and see which restaurants are densely populated and determine if they need to dine in a different area of ​​the airport,” Smith said, noting that it could also help. travelers find toilets without queues. before a flight and allow them to avoid high traffic areas as a COVID-19 precaution.

“This BSU project has encouraged additional internal dialogue on how to implement some of the teams’ solutions by leveraging existing technology. “

Other recommendations in the final plan include increasing the number of multimedia screens, offering advertisements to drive customers to businesses inside the airport, providing quiet areas throughout the pre-security and additional disinfection of baggage as a COVID-19 precaution.

Overall, Smith said the “wide variety of solutions, from technical to non-technical” offered by Ball State students was “astonishing.”

“We received the quality we expected from professional engagement,” continued Mr. Smith. “The projects were done in a style similar to what a large consulting firm would present. “

Each project was more than the airport could have imagined and resulted in each student passing the course and graduating from Ball State in the spring, Kitchens added.


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