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Pitt Business Students Place at 2016 NOBE Conference

Students from the University of Pittsburgh’s College of Business Administration and Swanson School of Engineering recently placed first and fourth in the Harvard Business Review Case Study Competition at the 2016 National Organization for Business and Engineering Conference (NOBE).  The Pennsylvania State University’s NOBE chapter hosted more than 80 participants from eight universities to participate in the three-day conference and case competition. 

Under the competition format, teams of four were formed by randomly assigning a pair of business and engineering students from one school with a pair of students from another school. 

Pitt Swanson students, Kelsey Metheny (Industrial Engineering) and Garrett White (Industrial Engineering) were part of the first-place team, and Justin Traino (Industrial Engineering) and Pitt Business student Margaret Bien (Supply Chain Management), were part of the fourth-place team.  A total of $2,000 in prize money was awarded to the first, second, third, and fourth place teams.

“Being paired with two students from Penn State was perhaps the biggest challenge of the competition,” Bien says. “It forced us to adapt to a new situation and communicate quickly and efficiently within the allotted time frame. Although it was challenging, it made the competition unique and exciting, which simulated a real-world team environment.”

Students from Drexel University, McGill University (Canada), Penn State Behrend, Penn State University Park, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Texas-Austin participated in the case competition.

Prior to the conference, White met with Pitt Business faculty member James F. Kimpel, whom he says shared helpful pointers and tips for approaching cases. His guidance helped “both in terms of problem solving and handling the competition itself.”

At the competition, teams leveraged their engineering and business skills in order to develop the most innovative and compelling solution to the panel of 10 judges.  The case competition focused on the online apartment rental site, Airbnb, which allows people to list and rent lodging outside the traditional hotel framework.  In response to well-publicized complaints regarding the trust factor between guests and hosts, the teams came up with a strategy for addressing this complex business problem.

After one hour, teams submitted their written reports.  Using predetermined criteria, the judges identified the top four finalist teams.  Each team presented their solutions in a five-to-seven-minute pitch, which was followed by a slew of questions from the judging panel.  The winning teams received certificates and awards at the dinner ceremony later that evening.

“My favorite part of the competition was getting to network with other universities that all have similar interests as us. NOBE wants to close the gap between business and engineering, which in my opinion is essential for anyone who wants to work in industry,” Traino says.

When asked to give advice to prospective students interested in participating in case competitions, Metheny says, “I 110% recommend competing in a case study competition. Many companies are incorporating cases into their interview process.”