POTSDAM It was long hours of research, uncertainty and frustration during the five-week project that Justine L. Nichols, 21, of Potsdam, and her three other teammates at Rochester Institute of Technology pushed through.
The effort was well worth it. Ms. Nichols, a senior, found out her team won $2,000 as a grand prize for the national College Industry Council on Materials Handling Education student design competition.
The project was completed during a facilities planning class for her industrial engineering major. Ms. Nichols and teammates Margaret Bates of Webster, Jessica Jeffrey of Marlborough, and Alexandra Woodward of Chester Springs, Pa., designed a process for making room for a new product in a fictitious sporting goods distribution facility.
Ms. Nichols said they had to research and develop a cost-efficient plan that would not only create space in the distribution center for a new product but also enhance the business overall.
It was definitely a surprise, Ms. Nichols said. We didnt realize we could win.
Ms. Nichols said they finished the project last year and since it was the best in the class, their professor entered their work into the national competition against 16 other participating schools.
They found out about their winnings over the summer.
Ms. Nichols said her team was also invited to present their project at the Council on Material Handling Education Conference in Atlanta in March, but since funding wasnt provided they wont be able to attend.
Specificity, cost savings and organization are the three components in Ms. Nicholss team project that allowed for them to come out on top.
We were frustrated and unsure whether we were doing it right, Ms. Nichols said. It definitely showed us how to push through situations like that. We were doing a good job and should have been more confident in our work.
Ms. Nichols went to Potsdam Central School and participated in Clarkson Universitys Horizons, a summer program for high school girls with interest in math, science or engineering.
Her mother, Neika J. Mayo, Potsdam, said the program helped her choose a college major.
She wasnt familiar with engineering at all but they immersed the students in engineering projects and she really enjoyed it, Ms. Mayo said.
Ms. Nichols decided on a five-year program at RIT.
My original plan was to go to Clarkson, but I still didnt see myself as an engineer and didnt want to stay in Potsdam, Miss Nichols said.
She currently working on her masters degree in engineering management and will participate in an internship at JPMorgan Chase and Co. in New York this summer.
Shes accomplished quite a bit over the last four years, Ms. Mayo said. Shes always been very driven, and shes exceeded all of our expectations.