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Dayton Engineer

Senior Design Project Helps VyrtX Optimize Organ Transportation

By Elizabeth Skelin, marketing communications intern

Through their senior design project, Liam Budnik ’20, Grace Culpepper ’21, Jonathan Schierl ’20, Zachary Schumm ’20 and Michael Zawlocki ’20 created a beta artificial intelligence plan for VyrtX, a medical logistics company. 

VyrtX works closely with the Ohio-based, Air Force Research Laboratory, and Ohio’s network of hospitals and Organ Procurement Organizations in their work. University of Dayton partnered with VyrtX through the Entrepreneur Center; this is the company’s first university-driven, senior design project team.

The Innovation Center recruits companies for about 80 projects per semester to be tackled by a team of seniors from across all disciplines, which  allow students to combine their engineering skills with project management.

VyrtX tasked the students with developing an AI plan to optimize transportation of human organs through use of applied data analytics. Once organs are harvested, procurement and surgical teams have limited time to complete the transport of an available organ for transplant while it is still viable. VyrtX looks to streamline and innovate the overall process from procurement to  transplant. 

President and Co-founder Alice Cummings shared, “one of the number one factors leading to the success of the transplant surgery is the condition the organ is received in at the transplant hospital. Reducing one or two hours off the time of transport can add years of life to a transplant recipient.” It’s VyrtX’s mission to revolutionize the transport headaches the industry observes, and in turn, optimize efficiency so that transplant recipients across receive an organ at optimal viability.

With the amount of problems facing organ transportation, the team developed an algorithm as a decision-making process to find the best route based on reliability, cost-effectiveness and speed. They also assessed the risk involved with any route, from the likelihood of traffic and impending bad weather, as well as programming implementation and API (application program interface) integration to connect VyrtX with other traffic and weather platforms. The VyrtX project included extensive research, which the team integrated into accessible, real-time databases. 

Throughout the 15-week project, the team worked with faculty mentors and met regularly with the client to work through ambiguous questions in a more business-like environment. 

Professor Malcolm Daniels said students “realize that the companies and engineers they work for don’t know the answers either…it helps stretch the students to think like engineers rather than engineering students.”

More than anything, senior design takes students away from textbooks and classrooms, exposing them to real-world engineering problems. From working on tight deadlines and client communication, to formalizing questions and habits, teams develop professional skills as well. 

Budnik said the project “exposes us to what we may do in the real world. We’re working with a real company and seeing what skills we have from going through the engineering process and applying it.”

VyrtX shares the goal of preparing engineering students for the workforce with the University of Dayton. As an Ohio-based company, VyrtX plans to set up an internship program to train the next generation of engineers. 

Cummings said, “You have to be able to know how you have [helped] solve a real-world problem, and this is the perfect way to facilitate that.”

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