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UW-Madison hosts IIE student regional conference

IIE conference presentations.
Eleven students presented technical papers at the conference. Award winners were Laura Jelinek of North Dakota State University (third place), Jason Stach of Purdue University (second place), and Carla Dingler of Iowa State University (first place). Dingler will present her analysis of Domino's Pizza at the world competition in Cleveland. Larger Image

Balmy weather, impeccable planning and more than 200 students and faculty from 13 Midwest universities helped make UW-Madison's first Institute of Industrial Engineers student regional conference a rousing success. Attendees came from as close as Marquette University and Milwaukee School of Engineering and as far as South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

"Madison had never hosted this conference and it was a great chance to show everyone what a great school we have," says Nicole Gallego, who led the Madison IIE members coordinating the event. "The best part of the conference was seeing everyone enjoying themselves. All the events went as planned, but seeing everyone having fun and relaxing was very rewarding."

Centered around the theme, "Building Our Tomorrows," the conference included a student technical-paper competition, and interactive workshops in E-commerce, human-centered design, industrial engineers' roles in health care, logistics-planning software, and using queuing models to support implementation of quick-response manufacturing.

A Thursday-evening team-building exercise and fellowship at area pubs set the stage for the conference's less serious side. "As an icebreaker, we had ALPS (UW-Madison's Adventure Learning Program) come and help everyone get to know each other," says Gallego. "People were running around the room barking and squawking. It really opened people up-especially us, being engineers-and it helped loosen everyone up a bit.

IIE conference social.
Although the IIE conference included a corporate fair, technical-paper competition and hands-on workshops, attendees also participated in off-the-wall team-building activities. Larger Image

It sure helped Purdue University's Jason Stach, whose "Analysis of Raw Material Delivery Methods" was third in a line of 11 presentations on the conference's Friday-morning docket. "There's no better pick-up line than to introduce yourself as one of the technical-paper presenters," he began, grinning. (He made no additional mention of his ability to meet women, but his paper took second place in the competition.)

The papers covered topics ranging from how one group developed a mathematical model to help a Domino's Pizza franchise reduce its number of late deliveries, to a comparative analysis of wrist braces and wrist angles on maximal grip strength.

An awards banquet capped the conference. Held at the spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, it featured UW-Madison Emeritus Industrial Engineering Professor and statistical pioneer George E.P. Box as keynote speaker. The evening also included a corporate fair, at which participants could visit with representatives from Andersen Consulting, John Deere, UPS, and UW-Madison's Center for Quick Response Manufacturing.

UW-Madison IIE students started preparations for the conference more than a year and a half ago. They made hotel and dinner reservations, brainstormed an agenda and identified sponsors. They invited students, faculty, sponsors and speakers. They finalized social plans, ordered T-shirts, wrote a brochure and press releases, developed a website and organized interactive workshops.

Gallego says that planning the conference was a valuable experience for everyone in her group. "I have learned a great deal in managing and being organized," she says. "I learned that I need to be incredibly organized to keep information from 15 people organized throughout two semesters. People got great contacts with professors, companies and other students. I also think they got a lot of the behind-the-scenes views at what really goes on."

And in the end, had they painted a picture of how they hoped the conference would turn out, it couldn't have been more perfect. Their plans came off without a hitch. The early March temperatures soared unseasonably into the mid-60s, and attendees strolled across campus, up State Street and downtown under clear blue skies.

"Everyone had a blast," says Gallego. "I am still getting thank-yous from the conference. I think everyone had high expectations of Madison and from what I have heard, they were all met."

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