ECU notes: Money-saving projects – The Daily Reflector



Photo by Cliff Hollis/ECU News ServicesECU graduate student Brittany Ryan points toward the implementation of her wetlands project, which reduces the Cumberland County landfill's requirements for EPA testing. Completed as part of her Lean Six Sigma training, her work will save the landfill more than $100,000 annually.

Photo by Cliff Hollis/ECU News ServicesECU graduate student Brittany Ryan points toward the implementation of her wetlands project, which reduces the Cumberland County landfill’s requirements for EPA testing. Completed as part of her Lean Six Sigma training, her work will save the landfill more than $100,000 annually.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Class projects completed by graduate students enrolled at East Carolina University will save two North Carolina companies more than $1 million over the next decade.

Graduate students Brittany Ryan and Robert Johnson completed their projects while earning the Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt certification. The program is designed to equip students with the methodologies of Lean and Six-Sigma, which focus on streamlining industrial and business processes.

At ECU, completion of an industrial or business process project is a requirement of the course. The project must show certified savings or revenue increase.

“The idea of students applying things from class and using them in real-world settings is the goal,” David White, dean of the College of Technology and Computer Science, said.

Janet Sanders, assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems, is one of the two professors at ECU qualified to teach the course. Sanders said the students must be able to show what is being measured.

Ryan worked with the Cumberland County Landfill manager to improve the landfill’s efficiency with mandatory testing. The landfill, in accordance with rules set by the Environmental Protection Agency, must test the chemical levels of its four sediment basins once a month and after heavy rains. Due to the smaller contaminants that may remain in the water run-off, there is a potential environmental danger to wildlife present in stagnant waters and the nearby water source.

The testing costs about $600 each year per basin, including travel costs for testing done in Wilmington.

Ryan found that growing a wetland within the sediment basin would remove excess chemicals in the drainage. With Typha plant (commonly known as cattails) and grass collected from a nearby wetland environment, she reduced the amount of chemical oxygen demand — the amount of organic compounds in the water to determine organic pollutants — phosphates and some nitrates from the basins.

As a trial run for the project, Ryan said they created a wetland environment within one sediment basin to test her research. Her goal is to have a small wetland planted within all four of the sediment basins by the end of summer. With the installed wetlands acting as a second filter for the run-off, testing would not have to be performed after every heavy rain — just once a month. The landfill should save approximately $109,000 dollars annually with the changes.

Johnson completed his project with Power Mulch at the Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility. His goal was to increase the company’s revenue by streamlining the process used during installation of erosion control socks. The black flexible material is filled with compost to keep soil and clay from running into the waterways near the construction site.

Johnson said he enjoyed seeing techniques from class applied, knowing the project worked.

He developed standard operating procedures for the people installing the erosion control socks. Better organization of project materials prevented excess time waste. The changes that Johnson made to the organization of the worksite and the workers increased the amount of erosion control socks installed from 1,530 feet to 2,340 feet per day.

“I was making sure the workers were efficient in the operating procedures and making sure the tools were ready and in the trucks at the site. If someone left their tools, they would waste time getting them and coming back,” Johnson said.

The savings are measured on a daily basis because of the nature of the project. Soil erosion control will not be a constant expense for the company. The average daily savings amounts to $2,427, according to Johnson.

Progress within the Lean Six-Sigma program is measured with different colored belts and only a certified Black Belt can teach the program. Students progress through the certification process similar to martial arts with yellow belt, green belt and black belt. The two ECU graduate students completed the certification program as black belts.

The program was completed entirely online with the exception of the final project presentation, given to the student’s sponsoring company. Though Sanders said students are not required to inform her of the final presentation, she likes for them to tell her so she can try to be there.

“I feel I have helped give students skills to further contribute to society,” Sanders said.

This fall will begin the third year of the Lean Six-Sigma certificate program at ECU. Twelve students are enrolled in the certificate program. ECU is one of three universities offering this program in the state.


ECU a top producer of recreational therapists

ECU’s recreational therapy program has been ranked the largest producer of certified therapeutic recreation specialists in the University of North Carolina system.

Recreational therapists provide treatment services to individuals with illnesses and disabilities in rehabilitation, mental health, long-term care and other facilities. According to the North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure, ECU contributed 41 percent of the newly licensed recreational therapists in 2012.

“This accomplishment reflects both the ability of our faculty to educate quality licensed recreational therapists and the need for those specialists in the state of North Carolina,” said Dr. Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance.

ECU graduates have been successful in finding employment and prospects look good for the future. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that employment of recreational therapists will increase by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020 based on the therapy needs of an aging population.

Lacey Burgess graduated from ECU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree from the health fitness specialist program and in 2012 with a master’s degree in recreational therapy administration and a certificate in aquatic therapy. Offered a few jobs before graduation, Burgess accepted a position at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for at-risk youth in Wilmington. Now she is starting a recreational therapy program for the company’s new location in Charlotte.

“I am proud to be a part of the growing field of recreational therapy,” Burgess said. “When I first learned about it, I was intrigued that it involves all domain areas: physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual.”

Whitney Sauter earned a master’s degree in recreational therapy in 2011. She accepted a position in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program at Vidant Medical Center.

Sauter was attracted to the program at ECU because of its concentration on evidence-based practice and research.

“The curriculum provided me with the education and hands-on experience necessary to provide quality, goal-driven recreational therapy treatment services,” she said.

The recreational therapy curriculum at ECU is “one of only a handful of programs that has earned accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs through the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education,” Dr. Susan McGhee, professor of recreation and leisure studies, said.

The program offers 16 recreational therapy courses in the undergraduate and graduate degree programs and two post baccalaureate certificates in aquatic therapy and biofeedback.

via The Daily Reflector.