Central States Volunteer Helps Operations Challenge Team Win First in Division 2 Laboratory Event

November 26, 2014

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Operations Challenge 2014 Featured in WEF Highlights and WE&T

During Operations Challenge 2014, Terminal Velocity made history by placing first in Division 1 for the fifth consecutive year. Team HRSD joined Terminal Velocity at the top by securing first in Division 2. Both are Virginia Water Environment Association teams.

While teams and competitors often receive coverage in the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF’s; Alexandria, Va) publications, many volunteers help host the annual competition that takes place during WEFTEC. During the next month, WEF Highlights will feature the following series of articles offering unique perspectives of Operations Challenge:

And read Operations Challenge 2014 coverage in WEF’s magazine, WE&T, which includes articles on the Division 1 and 2 winners, perspectives from a Laboratory Event judge and a training event held for the team from Argentina, as well as steps and results of all the events.

Members of the two Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA) Operations Challenge teams, the Shovelers and the Pumpers, often never meet until August and only have two practices together before the competition at WEFTEC. Competitors are chosen from past team members and CSWEA operations, collection, or safety award winners. This year, the Shovelers, placed first in the Laboratory Event for Division 2.

Jim Miller, coach of the team, attributes this accomplishment, at least in part, to a CSWEA volunteer that helped train the team in the event. “Monty Baker has provided assistance and guidance that has proved to be one of the primary keys to our success in this event,” Miller said.

Baker started serving as a judge for an operators’ competition at the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators’ Association annual conference in 2001. In 2006, a Water Environmental Federation and CSWEA member asked Baker to help train the CSWEA Operations Challenge teams. And in 2013, Baker served as a judge for the Operations Challenge Laboratory Event.

“In the years I have been involved, I have had a wonderful time meeting and working with competitors from a variety of backgrounds,” Baker said. The competition helps people with diverse background within the wastewater sector “form lasting bonds,” he added.

Baker, who has almost 30 years experience as a wastewater chemist and microbiologist at the Madison (Wis.) Metropolitan Sewerage District, felt his knowledge and background could help the team with the competition.

Monty Baker helps train the Central States Water Environment Association Operations Challenge teams for the Laboratory Event. Photo courtesy of Baker.

Monty Baker helps train the Central States Water Environment Association Operations Challenge teams for the Laboratory Event. Photo courtesy of Baker.

Since 2006, members of both CSWEA teams travel to Madison, for two separate 1.5-day trainings where Baker takes them through the Laboratory Event. For these trainings, Baker reviews the rules and guidelines of the event, creates worksheets and test questions that he e-mails to the competitors between the practice sessions, and converts his microbiology lab into a test course, he said.

“I also make sure that the contestants have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with equipment they may not normally use on the job,” Baker said. For example, one year he provided a contestant with disposable pipettes and a pipette bulb to practice at home.

Chris Kleist, member of the Central States Water Environment Association team, the Shovelers, helps the team place first in Division 2 for the Operations Challenge 2014 Laboratory Event. Photo courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

Chris Kleist, member of the Central States Water Environment Association team, the Shovelers, helps the team place first in Division 2 for the Operations Challenge 2014 Laboratory Event. Photo courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

Success in the competition requires practice, and Baker makes sure the teams know that from the start. “I encourage all team members to ask any and all questions as many times as they need to so they learn the material. We’ve had fantastic individuals who are willing to get outside their comfort zone and apply themselves to mastering procedures which are completely new to them,” Baker said. “I really get a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I’m able to help someone who has no laboratory experience not only learn the necessary procedures but learn them so well that they are able to contribute to their team’s success,” Baker said. “It’s also great to meet and cultivate friendships with the amazing individuals who take part in Operations Challenge.”

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

Operations Challenge 2014 Division 1 Results

Place Team Member Association Final Score
1 Terminal Velocity Virginia WEA 459.16
2 TRA CReWSers WEA of Texas 444.54
3 Commode Commandos Rocky Mountain WEA 377.33

Operations Challenge 2014 Division 2 Results

Place Team Member Association Final Score
1 Team HRSD Virginia WEA 455.36
2 Dumplings Nevada WEA 449.21
3 River Rangers Pacific Northwest CWA 444.09

 

 

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