Nick Foster

student discusses things with small groupIn the McMillon Innovation Studio students consider stubborn problems and come up with creative solutions. “Everything relates back to user experience,” said Nick Foster, who leads students majoring in computer science, mechanical engineering and psychology. When asked to address the critical shortage of truckdrivers, his team started by interviewing more than 60 of them at the Pilot Travel Stop on Highway 412. “They’re hardworking, they take pride in what they do, and they’re the backbone of an unglamorous industry,” Nick said. His team decided to tackle the mental stress experienced by truck drivers when car drivers act inappropriately –– for example, cutting off a big rig or coasting in a truck’s blind spot. “We’re looking at lasers – light systems that display a truck’s braking distance, for example. We’ve built a few things and hope to test them soon.” 

Nick’s team has been guided by an advisory board that includes professors and entrepreneurs, and they’ve worked closely with truck carriers such as J.B. Hunt and A.B.F. “Arkansas has a really rich heritage in trucks and transportation, and it’s been great to drill into that.”

Nick chose to major in supply chain management because the industry is in flux thanks to online retailers delivering products in new ways. “It’s a dynamic field: One minute you’re analyzing trends and forecasts, very white collar, and the next, you’re helping to unload trucks.”

Nick came to the U of A with multiple Advanced Placement credits, which has allowed him to pursue two majors along with minors in history and political science. On a typical day, he attends a class on the history of 20th-century political parties in the morning, then hones statistical modelling and data mining skills in an afternoon class on business intelligence. “It’s such a unique experience to learn at a high level in such disparate topics.”