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University of Kent computing students help international airline solve scheduling problem

More than 100 second-year students from the Computing Laboratory at the University of Kent are gaining valuable work experience by helping XL Airways solve a scheduling problem.

XL Airways, a leading and award winning UK charter airline based at Gatwick, operates a complex timetable to over 50 charter destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America from 11 airports in the UK. Consequently, it needs to ensure that it has enough pilots to meet its timetable requirements and that its timetabling operation runs as efficiently as possible, taking into account both human resources and legislation. For example, it needs to ensure that not only are its pilots in the right place at the right time but that the rules and regulations concerning flying hours are strictly adhered to.

Working in small teams, the University’s computing students are now constructing solutions to the scheduling problem using processes and methods for software design and development which they are learning in their module Software Engineering Practice. They also have the opportunity to continuously refine their understanding of the problem by interrogating XL Airways via an online forum.

The project ends in early January.

Professor Simon Thompson, Director and Head of the Computing Laboratory at the University of Kent, said: ‘It is difficult for any university department to provide realistic problems for their students as typical industrial problems are complicated and large-scale. However, it is precisely this sort of problem that XL Airways has to solve and we’re extremely grateful to them for passing this on to our students.’

Daniel Hiller, Group IT Business Architect for XL Airways, a graduate of the University of Kent and the originator of the project, said: ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for our industry to work with academia and the University of Kent’s undergraduate population, which I see developing into a long-term partnership. By gaining an insight into XL’s business we hope that students will gain an appreciation for the leisure industry that could develop into future employment opportunities. I hope in this way that we can both benefit from this innovative approach to problem solving.’

Tony Hunter, a computing student at the University of Kent, said: ‘The XL Airlines project is an excellent introduction to working in a software team on a real world product, with a real world customer. We are fortunate and grateful to have been given this opportunity.’

Karen Baxter | alfa
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