COVID19 – Room Allocation

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Due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, social distancing requirements means that lecture hall capacity has had to reduce dramatically in order to space students out sufficiently. This spacing is typically done manually, which is slow and can lead to inefficient use of space.

The EPS EdTech and Analytics Group worked with Library services to utilise a more computational approach to seating allocation. Firstly, images and CAD was used to input the lecture halls into the computer, from which a set of coordinates (positions) for the seats could be generated. An algorithm was then created which runs through 10s of millions of combinations, exploring different ways of efficiently packing the room, to provide seating layouts which increased capacity by up to 20%.

Various other algorithms were also explored, such as genetic methods and  annealing. To verify the bespoke algorithm used, a brute-force calculation was carried out on a smaller lecture theatre, which worked out all possible seating arrangements (2 trillion combinations were checked), which verified that the new code provided an optimal solution.

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