Please consider my application for the Gayle E. McElrath Scholarship. After reading about Mr. McElrath I hope he would see me a worthy recipient and a person who has already strived to apply quality tools/learning to my personal and academic endeavors.
Given my father has been in the quality engineering profession I’ve been exposed to a number of basic concepts and tools throughout my life. As an example, after proposing a raise in my weekly allowance back in high school my dad suggested instead that I could keep all the money I could save in our home utility bills (water, electric and gas). Clearly he was tired of asking me to turn the lights off. After floundering on how to do this for several days my dad sat me down and we details out a plan of attack. He had me write out the opportunity and the goals I wanted to reach. Then we collected all the monthly bills for the past couple of years to provide a baseline utility cost. At this point my dad helped direct my research and we identified ideas on water, electricity and gas consumption/efficiency/waste (Brainstorming). With the brainstorming ideas and some journaling I was able to estimate the cost savings and listed them in order of impact (Pareto chart).
Long story short, we replaced the old inefficient refrigerator in the basement, exchanged several light fixtures with florescent, tweaked the programmable thermostat, shut down the spare computer when not in use, changed some habits by becoming aware of the cost associated with the particular item/use, and the list went on and on. Essentially this exercise not only got me an extra $22 a month in allowance, but it was my first introduction to using a systematic approach to reach a goal. I later came to know this general approach was based on a common quality tool known as DMAIC.
I was fortunate enough to have a part-time job for over two years at Timm Medical Technologies in Eden Prairie. I was part of their production line in which I assembled and packaged their newest product, VenoSeal. Initially I was surprised at all the controls and inspections they had in place but later on when a production problem emerged I could see how thoroughly and extensively they investigated and corrected issues. I can see that many of these quality controls are directly applicable to the materials and testing that feed civil engineering projects.
Although I’m still just in my academic career, I find that basic problem solving tools are even applicable to college. Most often I’ve found that during group projects when I suggest we simply define and write down our problem, goal, or objective, the teams tends to align and focus more quickly and we waste less time on tangents.
They say knowledge is power and I’m a believer after my DMAIC experiences. This is one reason I’ve taken the time to join ASQ and SWE while a student. Through both of these organizations I’ve begun to see the advantages of learning about tools and concepts beyond what is taught in college and it’s opened my eyes to the potential application in all aspects of my life. Even now I can see that quality directly relates to civil engineering project success in which poor quality design or build can result in very serious failures and even death as the Minneapolis bridge failure a few years ago. Quality affects every aspect of a project from start to end. An engineer must accurately and thoroughly understand project requirements, site conditions, material characteristics, weather patterns, supplier quality and risk analysis. It’s essential the engineer understands and controls data quality used in the deign and build phases to ensure the project meets requirements.