What does it take to Win an Ergo Cup at the Applied Ergo Conference? A Village of Volunteers!

By Monica Matlis posted 06-12-2018 04:05:52 PM

What does it take to Win and Ergo Cup®? A village of Volunteers!  Yes, that's what it is.  Anyone who has participated in the competition has heard me say that,  "To be a finalist at the competition is an honor.  To win is an achievement of a lifetime! For these teams, it’s like winning an Oscar!"

The internationally recognized Ergo Cup® competition, sponsored by the Ergonomics Center of North Carolina and Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University and presented by IISE, provides an exciting opportunity for companies to highlight their successful ergonomic solutions. The general theme across all Ergo Cup® categories is innovation. Five Ergo Cup® awards are presented annually for outstanding solutions through training, engineering and teamwork.  

After being a competitor, winner, judge and then Co-Chair of the Competition, I can easily say that no one realizes the hundreds of hours invested into the competition by its handful of volunteers. Work starts months in advance.  As one of the co-chairs of the competition, we are tasked in leading the ERGO Cup® committee in reviewing ALL the entries to the competition months prior to the conference.  For weeks, the highly selective volunteers, expert in the field of ergonomics, review and actively discuss which of the entries meet the criteria for participation. This year, the co-chairs and committee members reviewed the 97 entries from all over the world resulting in 52 finalists participating at the conference.   These 52 teams would compete for the four Ergo Cups presented in 2018 at the 21st Applied Ergonomics Conference in Atlanta, GA.   The 800 conference attendees would not only see applied ergonomics applications from the workshops and sessions but also from the renowned ERGO Cup®. 

My co-chair and I, with the help from the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineering staff (IISE), ensure that everything that is needed for a smooth event is done in advance.  The team judging and photo schedules are created.   Information packages are complete for the teams.  Plaques are organized.  Last minute questions are answered.  Judges are selected and the draft of the award presentation is prepared….all leading up to the event itself.

At the conference, team photos are taken with the sponsor of the competition and their finalist plaque is presented.   Try getting 52 teams to show up on time to get their photo taken! 

On the opening day of the conference, judges meet at 7:00 AM to prepare for the competition.  They are reminded of their “rules of engagement” and how they must conduct themselves with the teams.  Judging schedules and scoring sheets are distributed. 

Judging starts immediately after the General Session ends and the task of selecting the winner’s begins. 

After being a judge for 10 years, I can say that it is NOT an easy task.  One cup will be given for each category:  Team Driven Workplace Solutions, Team Driven workplace Solutions with Internal Competition, Engineering/Ergonomics Workplace solution with Internal Competition and the Ergonomics Program Initiative. 

Hours are spent by the judges visiting the booths in each category, listening, taking notes, reading handouts and comparing them to the selection criteria.  Upon visiting all of the booths, the judges, go into “confinement”. They review their individual notes and voting begins.  Everyone MUST agree to his or her category winner.  They have given their time at the conference to select a winner and they will not leave the conference room until that is done.  Sometimes a clear winner surfaces…other times, not.  The discussion may go on for hours until the judging team selects their winner.  At that point, lips are sealed, judging sheets are destroyed, amnesia kicks in and the only ones to know the fate of the winners are the co-chairs.   

Not even the AEC conference chairs, IISE, or sponsors of the cups, know who the winners are – the “envelopes are sealed”.

2018 AEC Ergo Cup Judges"Some of the 2018 Ergo Cup® competition Judges"

The day of the award ceremony we can feel the tension among the teams.  They look at us the co-chairs and they all know that WE know! 

We, the co-chairs of the competition , on the other hand, are immersed in the logistics of the event, ensuring the awards are in order, the presentation is all setup and confidential to only us, the sponsor is ready to hand out the awards, and a quick run-through of the intro to the award ceremony is done.  We both know this is being streamed live so we need to make sure that as hosts of this ceremony we are “spot on”. This is a celebration of brilliant solutions in ergonomics that have been implemented at companies around the world to protect their employees. 

We need to celebrate that!  

After recognizing the 52 teams individually by sharing their team photo with the crowd, it’s time to announce the winners.   Time to honor someone else’s creativity and innovation.   The hundred of hours invested by volunteers who are passionate about ergonomics is about to come to fruition....and for a second, I have a flash back, to when a past co-chair announced that my team won an excellence award… and then a couple of years later…announced my team's wins of our FIRST Ergo Cup®

We are about to announce the winners…and I just can’t wait!  

2019 Ergo Cup Competition Co-Chairs, Monica Matlis & Jeff Hoyle Announcing Winners

 2018 & 2019 Ergo Cup® competition Co-Chairs, Monica Matlis & Jeff Hoyle

Then, reality "hits" us and we soon realize that the cycle begins again.  The 2019 competition will be here before we know it!  

Co-Chair Selfie with a 2018 Ergo Cup Winning Team

 Celebratory "Selfie" by Ergo Cup® competition Co-Chairs with a Winning Team

To learn more about the Ergo Cup® competition, visit: www.appliedergoconference.org/ergocup