When the Little Rock National Airport needed a creative solution to enhance its efficiency and profitability, Airport Executive Director Deborah Schwartz approached Dr. Mary L. Good, dean of UALR’s Donaghey College of Information Science and Systems Engineering.
From that conversation, Good set in motion a multi-disciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students from two UALR colleges — the Donaghey College and the College of Business — whose mission was to design an advanced information system to alleviate airport inefficiencies.
Not only did the team come up with a 21st century plan to improve service delivery at commercial airports, students also picked up a $5,000 award for their business plan in the process. The UALR team won third place in the coveted Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup for its entry — Dynamic Airport Systems, LLC.
The plan crafted by undergraduate students Daniel Rucker of Hot Springs, Rodney Arnold and Tara Lancaster, both of Little Rock, in the Donaghey College will help airports enhance efficiency and profitability in everything from management to ticketing, providing a hub for collecting, analyzing, and reporting airline arrivals, departures, passenger counts, and other data to airport commissions and billing systems.
The systems engineering students suggest that having a centralized repository of automated information will allow managers to make better informed decisions more quickly, resulting in decreased passenger congestion, less downtime for airlines, and more revenue for airports.
The integrated technology system was coupled with a business strategy created by entrepreneur-thinking MBA students David E. Hunt of Cabot; Andrew Herden of Sherwood; and Lindsay Cowling of Benton. This collaboration of ideas and skills was evaluated by a panel of judges made up of Arkansas business executives who reviewed the written plan and oral presentations.
The team was selected as one of six graduate teams to proceed to the final round of competition. Judging was based on overall feasibility, combined with significant capital gains potential, attractive investment possibilities, and actual implementation. As the team’s faculty advisor, Dr. Joe Bell, UALR associate professor of management and entrepreneurship, also received $1,000. According to Bell, efforts are under way to seek grant funding for the concept.
Another UALR team, Trunks, comprised of husband and wife undergraduates Ryan and Darla Harmon, also made it to the semifinalist round. Trunks, LLC is an Arkansas-based start-up company that manufactures super durable polymer cargo capsules.
Trunks’ product is The Ark, a buoyant, waterproof cargo capsule to transport an ice chest, firewood, and other camping supplies. It has over 12 cubic feet of storage space and the capability to hold 200 pounds and pull a 250-pound canoe.
The Ark attaches to the rear or side of the canoe and serves as a stabilizer and storage device. Tubeless tires underneath allow maneuvering over large rocks and roots without the threat of a flat. The top features a rack to tow a canoe when moving on land or shallow water. The features provide effortless moving of canoes from land to water and vice versa.
The Governor’s Cup, designed to recognize entrepreneurial student business plans, is managed by the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, an affiliate of the Arkansas Capital Corporation. This year’s Governor’s Cup winners were announced April 19 at the seventh annual awards ceremony attended by 1,300 business and community leaders. Speakers at the program included Gov. Mike Beebe and William B. Harrison Jr., former chairman of JPMorgan Chase. The late Bill Clark, chair of the board and CEO of CDI Contractors, was the 2007 chair.
The business plan competition has one of the largest cash prize pools in the country and encourages students at Arkansas colleges and universities to initiate ideas that will produce future businesses.