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University of Central Missouri
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Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
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Ergonomic Solutions Earn UCM Team Third Place Nationally

Contact Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 25, 2010) – Mules in Motion, a team of two undergraduate and two graduate safety sciences students at UCM, captured third place in the third annual Ergonomics Design Competition for Student Teams, a national competition sponsored by Auburn Engineers, Inc.       

The competition provides an opportunity for student teams to assess, design, and present their solutions to challenging problems in ergonomics. The event consists of a preliminary design project, a lightening round with teams answering ergonomic-related questions, and a final design project. UCM students were sponsored by Georgi Popov, Ph.D., QWP, assistant professor of safety sciences and instructor of the Department of Safety Sciences’ ergonomics course. The competition spanned a time period of over a month and a half, although the final design project was released to students with a 48-hour deadline for completion. All work was completed on campus during the fall 2009 semester, with results released recently this spring.

“This was the first year we competed,” Popov said. “Other participants were mostly engineering schools, but our program is focused more at the management side of ergonomics, so we are really proud of our students.”

For the preliminary design project, Popov’s students redesigned a student backpack to make it more ergonomically friendly to users. Their design enables the person wearing the backpack to keep their back straight, instead of making them lean forward, which helps eliminate back strain.  The final design project involved improvements to a tape dispenser that moving companies use to seal large quantities of boxes. The students’ design eliminates repetitive wrist and finger movements that are needed to apply adhesive tape, incorporating a heated wire system that eliminates the pulling or ripping action that is typically necessary to cut the tape.

Contributing to these ergonomic design solutions were team members Kent Kelly and Michael Bateman, who are both seeking Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety and Health degrees, and Jon Dickson and Pauline Rotich, who are seeking Master of Science in Industrial Hygiene degrees.

Leigh Ann Blunt, chair of the Department of Safety Sciences, said the students’ success was particularly impressive considering the brief time in which they had to get ready for the competition.

“Our students did not find out about the competition until three days before the deadline to enter.  As a result, they did not have nearly as much time to prepare the first design as other teams may have had,” she said.

Several schools had more than one team. The winning team was from the University of Utah and second place went to Auburn University. The UCM team’s third-place finish earned the team a plaque and $100 per team member.