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All Roads Lead to World Games for Group of NCSU Students

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RALEIGH — Any event the size of theSpecial Olympics World Summer Gamescould be a logistical nightmare.

Consider the challenge of transporting ice and drinks -- hundreds of thousands of pounds of it -- to 150 different sites. Then, throw in a number of volunteer drivers who do not know the area.

Games organizers took this problem to students atN.C. State University.

"Any large-scale systems problem can be solved using an engineering approach," says a group leader.

Sevenindustrial engineeringstudents crunched the numbers and worked out the details. The goal: to make sure the hot and thirsty athletes, volunteers and spectators at the Special Olympics World Games find refreshment.

"This was the incentive. This was not a project, this was for real and all of them hit the ground running," says project advisor Dr. Thom Hodgson.

Hodgson and Clarence Smith turned a request from Games organizers into a senior class project. Their job was move and store 285 tons of drinks and 140 tons of ice carried by drivers unfamiliar with Triangle roads.

The students knew those drivers would need more than a map.

"But then we would fine tune it and make sure those roads were correct and make sure that those roads are clear," says Melissa McLean, a project team member.

McLean and the other students spelled it out in rights and lefts with pictures of landmarks. Another team drew up site plans matching space needs with supply loads.

The math includes how many 48-foot trailers are needed to carry up to 39,000 pounds of ice in a day.

"You'll have to have approximately three trailer loads of ice for the games during any one day period," explains Smith.

The project is sure to be a resume highlight. Some discovered what jobs they will not apply for.

"As far as maps, I think I've had my fill of maps," says McLean. "We just said, we didn't want to see maps ever again."

The N.C. State seniors donated their time and talents to the Special Olympics World Games.