Engineering and Athletics Work Together to Improve Fan Day

Published: Feb 6, 2006 11:46:00 AM
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As Kevin Gue's manufacturing systems design graduate students completed their final project, they were making a difference not only in their grade, but across campus as well. The industrial and systems engineering students had made it their mission to develop a better plan for the Auburn Athletic Department's Fan Day event.

Fan Day is an opportunity for the Tiger faithful to get autographs from and take photos with their favorite Auburn athletes. The event usually takes place just before football season starts and about 4,000 fans usually attend.

After attending Fan Day 2005, Gue saw a few problems with the layout of the event.

"I was impressed by the length of the lines," Gue said. "I thought the process could definitely be improved."

Gue noted that one line led to the seniors on the football team, and another one led to the non-seniors. After waiting for 45 minutes in what appeared to be a short line, Gue found himself with just a few signatures. It quickly became evident that it would be possible for a fan to come to the event and not have time to get many signatures.

"There are a number of ways to fail in a system like this," Gue said. "We wanted to develop a system that would succeed."

Gue approached Jeremy Roberts, director of marketing for the Auburn Athletic Department, and said that his class would be willing to develop some new approaches to more efficiently organize the event. Roberts made himself available to the students, giving them feedback on their ideas.

Six groups of students delivered results at the end of the semester, using computer simulations to determine the best alternatives. Each group devised a different layout, but all of the ideas broke the players up into smaller groups and more lines.

"That way, we expect more fans get the signatures they want, at the risk of having fewer fans get all the signatures they want," Gue said. "Overall, it should be better."

Roberts attended the presentation of the final projects. The Athletic Department hopes to use some of the student ideas to improve this year's event.

"How much better these newer systems are - in practice - is uncertain," Gue said. "But we hope to see a positive difference from the work we've done."

With no previous data there is no real way to evaluate the success of a new plan. Gue hopes that this year, his students can collect data from the event.

"I hope that we can make Fan Day an on-going project for this class," Gue said. "It's an innovative way for students to gain real world experience while improving an already well-recognized part of the Auburn experience."