RIT Industrial and Systems Engineering Undergraduates Take Third Place in National Design Contest

Competition targets materials handling, one the fastest growing U.S. industries




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Materials handling and logistics is one of the country's fastest growing industries, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bureau of Labor Statistics, employing more than 700,000 workers—and growing.

Undergraduates from the industrial and systems engineering department at Rochester Institute of Technology took on some of the demands of this growing industry and were awarded third place in the 2008-2009 Material Handling Design Competition, a national competition sponsored by the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education.

Each year, the students are given a case study and expected to design and coordinate elements of manufacturing or warehousing operations. Students, José Gabriel Rodríguez, Rodrigo Velarde Gonzalez, Huseyin Zorba and Desirae Gilbert, all fourth-year students in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, designed a distribution center to service a new business supplying merchandise for major retailers.

“The project was challenging at the beginning,” says Zorba, who is originally from Cyprus. He and his teammates began work on the project during winter quarter as part of a facilities planning course.

“Though at the beginning a bit challenging, it was definitely a great experience from which I feel that I learned a lot,” says Rodriguez, another international student from the Dominican Republic. The project was given to students during a class and after several weeks of development, the best of the team projects was submitted to the competition, Rodriguez added.

Six independent judges from industry and academia evaluated the submissions. All projects must include detailed documentation about facility layout, operations, cost proposals, profit-lost statements and product flow and equipment utilization.

“The first time you read the instructions you feel like you have so many options how to develop the project,” says Gonzalez, a student from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

“The group put in a lot of hours and hard work into this project and it’s great to be able to see how we measured up against other teams and schools doing the same thing,” says Gilbert, a student from Plainville, N.Y.

The competition has been held annually since 1994. In the past five years, RIT has placed second and third and had two honorable mention awards.

“I am very pleased to see that the RIT team continues to place in among the top in the nation. This speaks very highly about the quality of our students,” says Andres Carrano, faculty advisor for the students and associate professor in industrial and systems engineering.