Generalizable or Cool? Why not both? – Introduction

Edward Z -

Imagine this: your parents are driving you to school and you’re right on time, but then, when your car enters the school’s gate – disaster strikes. There’s a whole line of cars, zigzagging throughout the parking lot, seventy or eighty in length. You sit there and can’t do anything but wait and panic, while cars are honking and beeping, parents are shouting, and teachers are disgruntled.

Okay, I’ll be honest, that was a bit of a dramatic intro. But this is an example of a daily concern for the over 360,000 schools and millions of students across the United States, which not only affects the overall mood of individuals who carry this moment of panic throughout the day but also the thousands of cars’ long queue waiting times and dangerous carbon emissions, among the myriad of other concerns. Having experienced these detriments for the past 17 years, with the problem as pervasive as ever, I felt compelled to combine my deep fascination with simulations and programming with tackling this issue to create this project.

So, what’s this project about and what will I be doing?

So far, I’ve gotten a site placement at the Arizona State University AI + Transportation Lab, a research institution I’ve been a part of for the past three years. Working under Professor Xuesong Zhou, I’ll be developing various solutions to pickup traffic using smart reservation systems – which essentially manage the influx of cars using an automated system. Throughout this project, I hope to develop a generalizable, automated, and open-source application to simulate any school’s pickup traffic, anywhere, anytime to optimize and alleviate waiting times and long queues – and build a thriving community of developers and enthusiasts to collectively enhance these reservation systems. To do this, I’ll be using a variety of tools but mainly the open-source GMNS framework developed by Professor Zhou, NetLogo by Professor Wilensky at Northwestern, and the Unity Engine (shout out to my game development club members!).

Additionally, I’ll also be working under the National Science Foundation Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (NSF POSE) recent 1.5M dollar grant with my professor to create a “cool” 3D co-simulation visualization tool to get students, decision-makers, and policymakers excited about the project. It’s a fun yet necessary way to level up current visualization technology; even the dean of ASU was excited! Along with POSE, I’ll finally be conducting interviews to make these applications more user-friendly. So far, in other interviews within POSE, including professors from MIT and Northwestern (redacted for anonymity), the team at AI + Transportation Lab has been able to understand more deeply about their problems at hand. I hope to continue this by conducting interviews of my own – so stay tuned for that in future blog posts.

Anyway, that’s all for my first post! You can follow the links below if you’re interested in learning more:

GitHub page:

YouTube Channel (will be uploading a video about this simulation to my community):


Connect with me on Linkedin:

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