Business students provide attendance data analysis to Children’s Museum

By: Austin Arceo, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
July 15, 2013

Several students enrolled in the online section of an Indiana State University course found the perfect place to implement some lessons from class: a museum just blocks away from campus.

Two students in a distance education course taught by Constance McLaren worked with the Terre Haute Children's Museum to analyze attendance data since the museum opened at its current location in September 2010. The museum opened to much fanfare, and while it still receives community support, attendance has declined from when it first opened. Indiana State students Chaleise Everly and Brye Creek, who were enrolled in McLaren's business forecasting class in the spring, received attendance figures and other information from the museum to create a forecasting model as a way to implement what they were learning in class.

"It was interesting working with all these forecasting methods to see that in reality they really can provide some useful information," said Everly, who is from Greencastle and graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in accounting and business administration. "It's not just used to create theoretical reports. Results can help companies make a difference in their operations."

The idea for the project came up after McLaren heard Lynn Hughes, executive director of the Terre Haute Children's Museum, discuss the museum's attendance at a public presentation. McLaren, professor of operations and supply chain management in the Scott College of Business at Indiana State, saw the potential of students collaborating with the museum.

"It's reaching a steady state. It was high at the beginning, it declined, and sort of steadied out," McLaren said of the museum's attendance. "The students recommend for the museum to keep offering new exhibitions and keep encouraging field trips, although with school financial difficulties, it's harder to get school groups to come."

The field trips had a significant impact on the overall attendance for the museum, Everly said. She and Creek were able to review some of the different programs that the museum offered and compare it to the attendance figures for those particular days and weeks.

The students then used their class lessons to create, develop and strengthen a forecasting model for the museum to help determine potential future attendance.

"The data really turned out as we had expected it to," said Creek, a junior from Danville, Ill., who is majoring in operations and supply chain management. "We ran our models and there really weren't too many surprises."

The students learned about how difficult it can be to create a forecasting model, McLaren said. While they were able to find some patterns related to attendance, there was no definitive consistency that enabled them to create concrete forecasting expectations, she said.

"I think they did a great job," McLaren added. "They are strong students, and they did everything that our course material enabled them to do with it."

Creek and Everly met with Hughes early in the semester to gain more information and learn how the project could benefit the Children's Museum. Based on the data, they created a forecasting model that predicted the anticipated attendance for the coming months given current events and offerings.

"It was just amazing to see how accurate their numbers were," Hughes said of the students' work. "They analyzed past data, but by the time they presented their information, we were able to compare their forecast to the actual data."

The museum, which was busy in the spring thanks to field trips, also is kept busy during the summer by families on vacation, as well as children on summer break who visit the museum, Hughes said.

"Things slow down when the kids go back to school in the fall," Hughes added, "so we're looking at a few programs and exhibits to hopefully draw more visitors to the museum."

Everly and Creek are the latest Indiana State students to partner with the Terre Haute Children's Museum. Other students, faculty and staff from the university have teamed with the museum on a variety of different projects, including the Go Figure program, an initiative created in conjunction with the ISU Center for Mathematics Education to teach third and fourth graders about science, technology, engineering and math.

The Children's Museum regularly looks for people to partner with in the community, Hughes said.

"Some people donate their time and talents by helping out on the museum floor," she added. "Some help build exhibits for the museum, and others, like these students, have expertise that they can share."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Go-Figure-Childrens-Museum/i-T5M5H7S/0/L/Go_Figure_Children%27s_Museum-1429-L.jpg An Indiana State University student, left, volunteers at the Terre Haute Children's Museum as part of the Go Figure program. Indiana State students Chaleise Everly and Brye Creek analyzed attendance data since the museum opened its downtown location next to the Candlewood Suites in downtown Terre Haute in September 2010 to create a forecasting model for the museum.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Go-Figure-Childrens-Museum/i-NkpzHPf/0/L/Go_Figure_Children%27s_Museum-1446-L.jpg Children learn more about the political process during an event hosted by the Go Figure program at the Terre Haute Children's Museum. Indiana State students Chaleise Everly and Brye Creek became the latest Indiana State students to collaborate with the museum, as they created an attendance forecasting model to aid the museum that also helped them some of the lessons they were learning in a business forecasting course.

Contact: Constance McLaren, professor of operations and supply chain management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2282 or connie.mclaren@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Two students in a distance education course taught by Constance McLaren worked with the Terre Haute Children's Museum to analyze attendance data since the museum opened at its current location in September 2010.

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