Mastrangelo, assistant professor of systems engineering (left),
and Matthew Mehalik, a Ph.D. candidate, commute to Northern
Virginia to co-teach a capstone course in U.Va.s Executive
Masters Systems Engineering Program.
engineering students analyze Charlottesville's voting procedures
extraordinarily close electoral vote in last years presidential
election illustrated basic flaws in voting systems nationwide.
In Florida especially, the margin of error in processing and counting
the votes exceeded the margin of difference between the number
of votes cast for each candidate.
after numerous recounts in Florida official and media-sponsored
debate continues as to who actually won the election. Experts
agree that these flaws must be analyzed and alleviated before
another tight and divisive election alienates public trust of
in U.Va.s new Executive Masters degree program in
systems engineering selected the City of Charlottesvilles
voting system as a subject for their capstone project,
required to complete their degrees in May. The 17 graduating students
in the Northern Virginia-based program have spent all of April
working with the Charlottesville Board of Elections and Registrar
to evaluate the citys system, which serves 21,000 registered
voters. The graduate-student team is to provide a report and recommendations
for improving the system during a final presentation to the Charlottesville
Board of Elections April 27 at the University.
chose this project because it puts to full use our training and
skills in systems engineering, which is the analysis and management
of immense data, says Matthew Mehalik, a Ph.D. candidate
and co-instructor for the capstone course, Systems
Engineering 602. The City of Charlottesville, which
already had begun reviewing its voting system, looked at our proposal
and agreed to be our client for this project. We are conducting
a detailed analysis and will provide a solid set of recommendations
that should be of great use to the city in its efforts to create
the most accurate and efficient voting system possible.
of Charlottesville Office of the Registrar
residents from one of the districts voting on Election Day.
students are providing a statistical analysis of nine previous
elections, a simulation analysis of poll-site operations, a financial
analysis of operational costs and a discussion of related legal
this baseline, our report will recommend sets of technological
and procedural alternatives for poll site and absentee voting
solutions and will highlight their various strengths and weaknesses,
Charlottesville did not have any major problems or disputes with
election results in November, the citys current voting system
does not comply with the requirements for sight-impaired people
by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.Va. study is addressing
ADA compliance. The city also uses the same Votomatic punch-card
system that was a factor in significant counting problems in a
1999 state election in Norfolk and, more notably, in Florida in
last years presidential election.
city is very enthusiastic about this project, and we look forward
to seeing the students recommendations, says Sheri
L. Iachetta, general registrar for Charlottesville. We have
worked closely with them, creating a very open process for full
evaluation. The students have proven to be extremely resourceful,
insightful and energetic. Both the students and the city are benefiting.
says the federal General Accounting Office and the state Board
of Elections also are interested in the findings produced by the
engineers create and use sophisticated analytical computer models
to sort through mounds of data, said Christina Mastrangelo,
assistant professor of systems engineering and lead instructor
for the capstone course. We identify the critical facts
and trends that will lead to informed decisions and actions for
a business or organization. The voting system analysis is a perfect
real-world capstone project because it allows our students to
use all of their information-gathering and analytical skills.
Executive Masters Degree in Systems Engineering is designed
for business executives and technical professionals with the guidance
of several technology companies in the Northern Virginia area.
Classes are held at Xerox Document University near Herndon and
taught by full-time U.Va. faculty from the School of Engineering
and Applied Science and the Darden Graduate School of Business
Administration. The two-year program was created two years ago.
This first graduating class of 17 students will receive degrees
during the Universitys commencement ceremony May 20 on the
Systems and Information Engineering students prepare for
real-world jobs by undertaking year-long capstone
design projects for real-world clients in industry and government.
They present their findings to clients during the annual
Capstone Conference. This year, teams from Lille, France,
Monterrey, Mexico, Virginia Tech and the United States Military
Academy also will give presentations of their work.
capstone program provides an opportunity for students to
do real systems engineering while still a part of their
academic program, said James W. Lark, assistant professor
of systems engineering and the conference coordinator. I
believe our program is better than a conventional internship
because student teams complete their fourth year of studies
on Grounds during the year-long capstone experience. At
the same time, the teams solve problems for their clients
as if the students were onsite throughout the project. Our
alumni frequently cite the capstone project as the most
important part of their engineering education at U.Va.
of the high quality of the capstone program, the Systems
Engineering faculty is one of three finalists for the 2001
Boeing Outstanding Educator Award.
in systems engineering will present their findings from
a variety of projects during the conference April 27, 10:30
a.m. to 6:15 p.m., in Newcomb Hall. For the full schedule
of presentations, call 982-2100, or visit www.sys.virginia.edu/capstone/conference2001.html.