Last week, a team of four supply chain management seniors won first place in the Operation Stimulus national case competition for the first time since 2002.
The competition, which took place in Denver, and was hosted by The Denver Transportation Club, featured 18 teams from 15 North American universities. One of the schools that competed, Dalhousie University, is located in Canada.
In a case competition, participants are required to find the best solution for a unique situation invented by the organization hosting the competition. Every year, a variety of case competitions are hosted by several organizations.
In this competition, teams were required to figure out how to deliver supplies to Nicaragua, where a hurricane was rapidly approaching. The team knew about the situation a month before travelling to Denver and presented their solution to a panel of six judges.
Professor Bixby Cooper, who serves as the faculty advisor for many of the case competitions MSU competes in, said the students had a great opportunity to be able to present in front of the judges.
“There’s usually somewhat of a unique situation, and getting the experience of planning and presenting that case to a group of people that are professionals working in the field … (was) a great learning experience for them,” he said.
On the second day of the competition, however, the judges threw in a twist to the situation: a volcano on Nicaragua erupted, preventing air travel to and from the country. Team member Danforth Holley said their unique alternative is what won the contest for them.
“We decided that for the suppliers in (the) Americas (and) in Europe, it would make more sense to ship things through Panama Canal and truck and boat things back to Nicaragua,” he said. “From there, they could send supplies on fishing boats.”
Team member and Supply Chain Management Association President Lexi Marques, who has participated in several national case competitions, said this was the hardest competition she’s done.
“We won with creativity and thought outside the box as far as solutions,” Marques said. “That’s what set us apart.”
The students were recommended by various supply chain management professors. Cooper said he was looking for a particular type of student for this competition.
“I asked (the professors) if they had any recommendations for any students who were not only excellent students, but would be able to analyze a situation in front of professionals who worked in supply chain,” Cooper said.
Team member Matthew Fetters said because the national case was his first one, it feels good to end part of his last semester at MSU on a high note.
“It was a good experience to go out there and put the things I learned in my classes to work,” he said. “I was able to apply the same things I’ve learned into situations that are impactful. Extracurricular things like that really help you stand out as