Student Innovators Develop App to Aid J.B. Hunt Employees

The J.B. Hunt team won the overall award for Design Teams at the McMillon Innovation Studio's Demo Day thanks to their app that improved work-life balance for J.B. Hunt's transportation managers.
Brandon Howard

The J.B. Hunt team won the overall award for Design Teams at the McMillon Innovation Studio's Demo Day thanks to their app that improved work-life balance for J.B. Hunt's transportation managers.

A mobile app that improves work-life balance for J.B. Hunt employees while solving supply chain issues won the overall prize at Demo Day, the semester's capstone event in the McMillon Innovation Studio

A student innovation team led by Philip Nuñez said J.B. Hunt, one of the country's largest trucking firms, was looking for a human-centered solution to make their transportation management system (TMS) more accessible. 

Through visits to the corporate office and customer discovery interviews, Nuñez's team learned that transportation managers had a limited ability to address supply chain issues unless they were in the office.  

Nuñez recalled an impactful story from a manager who had to leave a family gathering to drive home and access his laptop for a two-minute task. 

The app developed by Nuñez's team would allow transportation managers to work on-the-go to dispatch, track and manage their drivers. Nuñez said the app could increase driver and transportation manager retention rates, saving J.B. Hunt thousands to onboard new employees.

"I wanted to work on a project that would have a genuine impact on individuals," Nuñez said.  

"Knowing that a mobile app could allow (transportation managers) to be more present with their families, spend more time training drivers and give them more flexibility when disruptions occur assured me that we were driving real value to lives." 

Stephen Kincaid, director of engineering and technology at J.B. Hunt's Business Domain Center of Excellence, mentored Nuñez's team and said he was "deeply impressed" by their professionalism and tenacity. 

"Their dedication to getting into the field, meeting directly with our target users and discovering their real challenges was nothing short of inspiring," Kincaid said. 

"They've crafted a solution that not only addresses these pain points effectively but is also designed to truly delight." 

Nuñez and his team were part of the studio's Design Teams program, which allows students to harness human-centered design principles to solve pressing industry problems, create social impact or work toward their own startup ideas.  

Nuñez's team included Ignacio Carrasco, freshman, industrial engineering; Brett Harrelson, junior, finance; Amna Khan, junior, computer science; Soumya Kolluru, junior, business administration; and Shivani Koundinya, senior, biomedical engineering. 

Their presentation won over a three-judge panel at Demo Day, held May 1 inside Adohi Hall. The studio hosts Demo Days twice a year to unveil the prototypes and learnings developed after a semester of mentorship and hands-on innovation experiences. 

"We are very grateful for the recognition, but really it's the people behind the wheel that deserve the praise, as they keep our world moving," Nuñez said. 

The team set a goal to prove their solution needed to move beyond one semester, Nuñez said, and next year they'll continue their innovation journey in the studio's Product Teams program, which helps teams create a product that has a viable go-to-market strategy.   

"We'll be recruiting new members for our team for the fall," Nuñez said, "and I guarantee you this is the project to be a part of." 

Justin Urso, the studio's director, said he is excited to welcome Nuñez's project into the Product Teams track. 

"What's most important about this team is how they kept focusing on the end users needs and not straying from delivering a solution that met those needs," Urso said. "We know when a student and their team stay focused on these principles, a great solution is on the horizon." 

Launched in 2016, the studio is the innovation hub for the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and is open to students across the U of A campus. The studio works to develop future leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators by cultivating their creative mindset and connecting them to opportunities to make real-world impact. 

Students in the studio are given access to valuable mentorship and resources — providing further support to cultivate their creative skills and empower them to deliver impact innovation through organizational, social and entrepreneurial change. 

SPRING 2024 DEMO DAY WINNERS   

Organizational Design Teams

Sam's Club 

Scope: How might we better engage with Gen Z and Gen Alpha in order to be their preferred shopping destination for a warehouse model retailer? 

Project Manager: Brooke Beyer, senior, supply chain management 

Team: Alex Kim, freshman, pre-business; Hudson Dulli, sophomore, finance; Walter Sarmiento, sophomore, computer science; Sophia Splawn, junior, marketing; Frankie Suchara, senior, finance 

Mentor: Leslie Shepard, associate director, brand marketing, & Jitin Chemmannur, senior director of product management 

Product Teams - Term 1

DevelopIQ

Scope: Software platform supporting real estate developers in the pre-planning phase for site development 

Product Manager: Andres Balderrama Montano, senior, finance & computer science 

Team: David Blinn, junior, pre-business; Alivia Brewer, senior, finance and accounting; Trey Thomas Dicks, sophomore, finance; Maricela Reyes Hernandez, sophomore, pre-business; Andres Balderrama Montano, senior, finance and computer science; Ignacio Balderrama Montano, sophomore, finance; Sebas Reyes, sophomore, finance; RyLeigh Werner, senior, supply chain and economics; Daniel (Ganer) Whitmire, junior, mathematics; Ananya Vangoor, senior, engineering 

Product Teams - Term 2

Forya

Scope: Marketing software for churches that leverages AI to generate personalized content and social media posts. 

Product Manager: Landen Usher, senior, finance & accounting 

Team: Brennen Beck, senior, SEVI; Ben Elliot, senior, SEVI; Vishal Jeyam, senior, computer science; Sophia Underwood, senior, marketing 

Product Teams Independent Project

Tom Muccio Book Launch

Scope: Launch of former P&G Executive Tom Muccio's new book, Collaborative Disruption 

Product Manager: Reagan Herrmann, senior, SEVI 

Team: solo project 

Product Teams Overall

PizzaKiosk

Scope: Launch of the first pizza kiosk on a university campus, in partnership with Nestle & DiGorno 

Product Manager: Braeden Calvert, senior, management 

Team: Hanin Ahmed, junior, finance; Riley Easterling, sophomore, supply chain management; Chloe Mosler, senior, marketing 

Social Impact Design Teams 

Community Clinic 

Scope: How might we engage patients who receive care in Community Clinic's prenatal program to return for postpartum and pediatric visits? 

Project Manager: Valeria Mazariegos Arevalo, senior, marketing 

Team: Tham Cao, junior, supply chain management and information systems; Ellis Freel, senior, poultry science; Sierra Greiner, senior, international business; Sophia Rosenfeld, senior, communication; Khushi Sharma, sophomore, biology 

Mentor: Amanda Echegoyen, COO, Community Clinic 


About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village, and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI provides free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. A unit of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new. 

Contacts

Brandon Howard, communications manager
Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
479-418-4803, bjhoward@uark.edu

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