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Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Wins First Prize at International Forest Fire Conference

Jeremiah Fugate, recent graduate of the mechanical engineering master's program at the University of Kentucky, won first prize in the research poster session at the 7th International Conference on Forest Fire Research in Coimbra, Portugal, held Nov. 17-21.

Fugate worked with his UK advisors Kozo Saito, director of the Institute of Research for Technology Development (IR4TD); Nelson Akafuah, assistant research professor of mechanical engineering; and Abbot Maginnis, academic program coordinator in the Lean Systems Program; alongside U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers Mark A. Finney and Jason Forthofer, to produce a paper for the international conference titled, "A Focused Analysis on Lean Fire Management Systems." The paper proposes the application of lean manufacturing techniques to fire services, particularly root cause analysis and systematic problem-solving to post-incident reflection meetings for facilitation of continuous improvement.

The conference takes place every four years and brings together scientists and practitioners from various parts of the world working on different aspects of forest fires, encourages the presentation and discussion of recent advances in scientific research and technical development, and includes presentations on new management methodologies, according to the conference website. Alongside Fugate’s poster, there were 50 other posters on display from researchers worldwide.

In addition to this achievement, Fugate, from Hazard, Kentucky, also graduated from the UK College of Engineering with a master's in mechanical engineering on Dec. 19. While pursuing his master’s degree at UK, he was the Lean Systems Fellow at IR4TD, and prior to that graduated with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from UK.

He now hopes to work in the manufacturing setting using the knowledge he gained from working in the labs of the Lean Systems Program. The product of a 20-year long collaboration between Toyota and UK, the program utilizes and teaches Toyota's method to create an environment that supports and equips employees to perform continuous improvement.

“I am thankful for Dr. Kozo Saito and the Lean Systems Program for their support during the past two years," Fugat said. "Working with them has allowed me to bring lean manufacturing principles to a whole new audience and discuss it for people from around the world.

“I am nowhere near an expert in lean manufacturing, but I can see the usefulness of applying it on a day-to-day basis after the time I’ve spent here at UK. In addition to this, I see the end of my college education as the beginning of a lifelong learning process thanks to the excellent people at the IR4TD and the Lean Systems Program."