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Two Pitt Industrial Engineering Students Win First Place at 2016 NOBE National Conference Case Study Competition

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA (March 2, 2016) … Kelsey Metheny and Garrett White, undergraduate students at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, received first place recognition for their work in the Harvard Business Review Case Study Competition on February 13 at Penn State University.

The competition was part of the National Organization of Business and Engineering (NOBE) 2016 National Conference, which brought more than 80 participants from eight universities and leaders from both academia and industry to the Penn State campus to discuss topics related to overlap in business and engineering sectors.

During the case study competition, students attempted to find solutions to problems faced by lodging rental website Airbnb. Serving more than 60 million guests annually, Airbnb is currently exploring strategies to resolve complaints about destructive guests and to facilitate trust between guests and hosts.

Metheny and White were randomly paired with Penn State industrial engineering students Matt DiSanta and Janna Al Nabhani and competed against 10 other teams of four students each. The competition consisted of two rounds: a 60-minute first round in which students submitted a written report to the panel of judges and a five- to seven-minute second round for finalists to present their solutions to the judges and answer questions. 

The panel of judges consisted of three Penn State faculty members, two members of the NOBE national office and representatives from Flashpoint Informatics, GE Transportation, Hess Corporation, PricewaterhouseCooper and United States Gypsum Corporation.

“Our answers to the more subjective case questions revolved around transparency on both ends of the transaction,” said White. “We focused on attacking the root problem—a somewhat blind process that could cause hosts and renters alike to feel uneasy or experience problems. We suggested incentivized data input, more concise and meaningful reviews, the advent of an optional insurance program and other solutions that would benefit both parties.” 

Metheny and White each received $250 and a brass Nittany Lion trophy for their efforts. Justin Traino, another Pitt industrial engineering undergraduate student, was a member of the fourth-place team and received a $25 award. 

In addition to the case study competition, the NOBE National Conference featured speakers who addressed many of the opportunities for students interested in combining business and engineering skills. They covered topics such as business and industry trends, graduate school options for business and engineering majors, entrepreneurship and complimentary skills for engineers interested in the business-side of industry.

“Pitt’s curriculum does a very good job incorporating business classes. A mentor of mine once told me that an engineer who understands business is unstoppable,” said Metheny. “Together, these two disciplines require skills that make great leaders. I have one semester left to complete my undergraduate degree, and I plan to go into consulting for a few years before getting my MBA, which aligns with NOBE’s mission to integrate business and engineering. The steps I’m taking now and plan to take after graduation will prepare me for high-level management positions in the future.”   


Pictured above left to right: Janis Terpenny (head of PSU Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering), Matt DiSanto (PSU), Garrett White (Pitt), Kelsey Metheny (Pitt), Mohammad Al Zayed (president, PSU NOBE chapter).

Contact: Paul Kovach