IMSE faculty and staff log 1735 miles during 2020 Next Step Challenge

This map tracks the progress made by members of the industrial and manufacturing systems engineering department after they completed the 2020 Next Step Challenge. Image created using Google Maps

A team of 14 faculty and staff members from Iowa State University’s Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) collectively logged enough miles to walk from Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado – and passing through five other national parks on the trip – during their participation in the 2020 Next Step Challenge.

The team was led by Gary Mirka, university professor in IMSE. Gary’s wife Jami suggested a tour of national parks as a way of tracking the team’s progress from week to week. Gary Mirka, who also serves as the John Ryder Professor of Engineering, has recruited his departmental colleagues to participate in this friendly competition since 2017.

“The Next Step Challenge is a fun way for us to work as a team towards a common goal, and also develop habits for a healthy, active lifestyle,” said Mirka. “Social distancing requirements of COVID-19 made this an ideal time for this type of physical activity.”

The Next Step Challenge is sponsored by Live Healthy Iowa, a program of the Ames-based Iowa Sports Foundation. The program was developed “as a strategic health initiative to address the state’s growing obesity problem.” This year’s Next Step Challenge started on Monday, September 14 and concluded on Friday, October 23. During those six weeks, participants tracked their steps using a smart watch, a FitBit or another pedometer device then logged their steps on the Live Healthy Iowa website. By the end of the competition, the IMSE team had collectively logged 1735 miles.


Participants in this year’s event include: Michael Dorneich, associate professor; Jim Fay, affiliate instructor; Nick Fetty, communications specialist; Matt Frank, John B. Slater Professor in Sustainable Design & Manufacturing and professor; Kate Garretson, administrative specialist; Guiping Hu, associate professor; Aaron Jordan, laboratory supervisor; Deb McDonough, student services specialist; Gary Mirka, John Ryder Professor of Engineering and university professor; Frank Peters, C. G. “Turk” and Joyce A. Therkildsen Professor and associate professor; Devna Popejoy-Sheriff, student services specialist; Leslie Potter, teaching professor; Sarah Ryan, Joseph Walkup Professor; and Steve Vardeman, university professor.