Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Fixing it Before it Breaks: Mines Students Create Software to Inform Property Maintenance Decisions

Cody Hall, Rachel Terwilliger and Sharvil Pai Raiker spent their senior year in computer science taking a deep dive into the data on how often stuff breaks.

 

It could be said that scheduled maintenance keeps the world humming. Take commercial airplanes for example, maintenance schedules on each part inside an airplane are carefully kept, and when any part is near the end of its lifetime, that part is replaced before it breaks. This sort of meticulous maintenance tracking is a big part of what keeps airplanes in the air and passengers safe.

But what if we could do this inside a home? What if we could track the parts inside our refrigerators, our washers and dryers or even the squeaky hinges on our bathroom doors? For property managers, who oversee hundreds or thousands of rental units at a time, the data needed to inform scheduled maintenance could be immensely valuable. For residents and homeowners, it could save the frustration of coming home to a broken appliance, like a defrosted freezer dripping water across a kitchen floor.

Here is where Property Meld comes in. The company hosts web-based maintenance software for property managers that provides complete oversight of the entire maintenance process, from a ticket submission for that broken refrigerator to follow up after the new unit is installed. In essence, Property Meld makes it easier for residents to have maintenance concerns addressed promptly while saving landlords headaches and money at the same time.

Property Meld sponsored a year-long research project undertaken by three computer science students at South Dakota Mines in an effort to inform new models for scheduled maintenance on homes and apartments. The students, Cody Hall, Rachel Terwilliger and Sharvil Pai Raiker, spent their senior year taking a deep dive into the data on how often stuff breaks.

The team used maintenance data and invoices, generated by Property Meld’s services to clients, to form a granular understanding of the time and money spent when fixing in-home assets across thousands of rental units. The team then built software to interpret the invoices and extract useful information that can inform rental maintenance scheduling.

“This project is the groundwork for helping out renters and homeowners from the pain of maintenance on homes,” says Hall. “The invoices have Property meld team 2valuable data that can be used to gain a better understanding of the assets in the home. With that better understanding, we can then have preventative maintenance meaning maintenance that happens before those assets break and the home is damaged or destroyed.”

For Property Meld, this research is not necessarily about making immediate profits for the company. Rather, it’s fulfilling a vision for the future. “It is important to emphasize that the benefits are primarily long-term in nature and encompass a wide range of areas,” says Terwilliger.

The company, based in Rapid City, S.D., also finds value in partnering with students at South Dakota Mines.

“By engaging in this collaboration, we have been able to nurture potential moonshot ideas, offer valuable mentoring and growth opportunities, develop proof of concepts that could evolve into real-world features and lay the groundwork for exploration in new areas,” says Austin Wentz, an engineering manager at Property Meld and a mentor for the student team.

For Sharvil Pai Raiker, one of the students on the project, working with experienced software engineers at Property Meld was invaluable.

"Austin played a pivotal role in the resounding success of the project, says Pai Raiker. “His invaluable guidance and expertise enabled our team to make well-informed decisions, ensuring the project's seamless completion. His profound impact on my professional growth has honed my engineering acumen and workplace aptitude, leaving a lasting impression on my career trajectory."

Pai Raiker and other students on the team also drew inspiration as pioneers of industry game-changing software.

“I think this project will open doors for Property Meld in how they gather their data and generate future product ideas,” Terwilliger says. “Property Meld has an opportunity to be the first one to offer something brand new that vendors haven’t seen before. Even though Property Meld is geared toward property management companies, this project leans into business analytics for the vendor side of the company. The ability to affect many businesses with more useful information to guide is a big deal.”

Raiker, Terwilliger and Hall also had the benefit of internship experiences at Property Meld while going to school. Following graduation, Raiker accepted a full-time position at another South Dakota based software company, Omnitech. Both Terwilliger and Hall accepted full-time positions as associate software engineers at Property Meld. For Wentz, the opportunity to sponsor this student design team also helped his company land two experienced programmers in this highly competitive labor market.

“At Property Meld, we are deeply committed to giving back to our community and fostering a culture of philanthropy within our organization. We believe that investing in the next generation of STEM professionals is not only a social responsibility but also a crucial component of our long-term success and sustainability,” Wentz says.

Mines Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) is finishing the annual round of soliciting senior design projects for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. These projects will give students real-world experience while providing a service and potential solutions to collaborators.

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About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu