University of Michigan students aim to make waiting for the bus less frustrating
Riders standing at bus stops may be able find out how long they'll have to wait, thanks to the efforts of three University of Michigan students.
The students, all graduates of Ann Arbor's Huron High School, have been working from the nearly naked basement of a downtown office building to make public transportation more predictable to use.
They're one of three groups involved in RPM10, a summer internship program for U-M students who have an idea for a technology-based start-up company. During the 10-week program, students develop working prototypes and lay the groundwork to launch a start-up.
Last winter during an open competition, representatives of the engineering college and RPM Ventures, an Ann Arbor Venture capital firm, chose the three teams with the best proposals.
“If you had told me in May we’d be where we are, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Adam Berkaw, 22, a recent U-M graduate in political science who is president of the project, called Shepherd Intelligent Systems. “We are definitely in our best-case scenario. It’s been really good. The program has real utility.”
Their project takes existing software from U-M’s “Magic Bus” program of 2005, which was created by engineering students to track the location of university buses and relay the data to riders.
Jahan Naveen Khanna and Schuyler Cohen - the other two partners in the project -Â worked on the original program. They've added several refinements, blending their own software advances with the ability to relay information to portable devices.
Their project should allow riders to plan their trips with real-time data maps they'd receive through text messages or on computer screens or smart phone displays.
The U-M College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship provided about $20,000 towardÂ Shepherd Intelligent Systems' project. Local firms such as McKinley & Associates, Bank of Ann Arbor, Miller Canfield, and Renaissance Financial contributed free office space, banking services and legal and accounting advice.
Mentorship on patents and other critical issues was also part of the deal.
Real-world testing on U-M and Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses may be near. Adaptations of the system are also foreseen for trains, taxis and airport shuttles.
Strategies for pitching the system to transportation managers were refined with the help of seasoned experts, Berkaw said. “We need help to talk to those people and think the way they think.”
Cohen, 22, a senior in aerospace engineering and computer science, turned down internships from Microsoft and Lockheed Martin this summer to work with his long-time friends. He's sharing product development duties with Khanna, 21, who will soon begin graduate study in computer science.
Khanna said the future beyond this summer remains uncertain. If they get customers soon, it’s possible one or more of the partners will take time off school as additional backing for the company is sought.
Photo by Ronald Ahrens for AnnArbor.com: From left, Schuyler Cohen, Adam Berkaw and Jahan Naveen Khanna.
Ronald Ahrens is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Our news desk can be reached at 734-623-2530 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.