I have been teaching BUS430 for some time and I always seem to have a few students for whom a lightbulb goes on in their heads about how useful Excel can be in their business and personal lives. This term in the new 431 version of that course, the same types of revelations happened. One student, who I shall not identify since I was unable to get her permission to identify her, used Excel and an optimization application we cover in the course to plan her travels around her coming trip to Excelsior graduation.

She said in her discussion post:

My plan is to visit a haunted inn in Cobleskill, NY and stop by at the in-law’s house in Saratoga Spring, NY. I would also like to visit Salem, MA for historical sightseeing, and to stop by at the seafood restaurant in Mystic, CT.”

She chose to use a variation of the classic Traveling Salesman optimization problem and implemented it in Excel.

The result is shown below. Initially, the total distance was 606 miles. After using Solver, it was reduced to 586 miles. The order of cities was also rearranged. Solver suggests starting from Albany, Salem, Mystic, Cobleskill, and Saratoga. I was surprised that Cobleskill and Saratoga were the last cities to visit since they are so close to Albany. I believe the optimization models such as the Traveling Salesman Problem are beneficial for finding the minimum or maximum solutions. Without analyzing, I would have gone to visit Cobleskill and Saratoga first.”

Here is the sketch she created of her travel route.

Don’t you just love technology? And enterprising students?