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Ohio University student engineering team delivers ergonomics competition win in a pizza box

By Kaitor Kposowa and Adrienne Cornwall

Athens, Ohio (December 10, 2012) - Students from Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology won first place out of 34 teams in a national ergonomics student design competition hosted by Alabama-based Auburn Engineers, IncErgonomics story - Presentation Day Photo

The competitions poses ergonomic design challenges, tasking undergraduate and graduate student teams with solving them using the company's eTools application.

This year's task for Team H-Factor: analyze pizza-box folding and solve its ergonomic issues.

“We discovered that the pizza-box folding over a long duration could be risky due to the high number of repetitions,” explained Warnaka Gunawardena, team leader and a master's student in industrial and systems engineering (ISE). “We proposed to use a novel jig to fold boxes. It will enable the worker to fold the box when it is actually needed, rather than wasting precious shop space to store folded boxes.”

Diana Schwerha, assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the group's advisor, explained that a jig is usually used in manufacturing to hold an item while a worker manipulates it, rather than the worker holding and manipulating the item at the same time.

“The goal of ergonomics is to ensure the safety of the employee and to maintain productivity,” Schwerha said. “It utilizes basic engineering skills, knowledge of work physiology and knowledge of the human information processing system.”

Last year, Ohio University placed second in the competition with a design to solve musculoskeletal problems encountered by marching band members.

Gunawardena was asked by organizers why the team entered this year after their high finish last year, and for him, the answer was simple: “Because we want to be the winners and not runners-up.”

H-Factor team members included Gunawardena, ISE master's student Ecstacy Adkins, food and nutrition master's student Sumali Hewage, civil engineering freshman Praveen Gopollawa and ISE sophomore Eric May.

The five team members won individual cash prizes as well as LinkedIn recommendations, certificates and a trophy. They will also get $5,000 in travel funds for a group user meeting hosted by the competition organizers in Auburn, Ala.

“They incorporated lessons that they learned from last year's competition,” said Schwerha, who advised returning team members Gunawardena and Adkins in last year's contest. “These students have talent, work ethic, integrity and energy.”

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