In 2003, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) designated October as National Ergonomics Month (NEM). NEM has grown to become an opportunity for ergonomists, human factors and user experience professionals to promote our science, practice and value to corporate executives, students, and the general public by providing information and services to our communities.
October is really more of a kick-off month — outreach activities associated with NEM continue throughout the year. For example, in July 2009, the University of Massachusetts — Lowell HFES Student Chapter completed their ‘Community Charlas’ activities which focused on spreading occupational ergonomics awareness among Hispanic workers. This event won second place in last year’s NEM Best Action Plan Contest. The fact that it was completed in July makes it no less important an activity!
The NEM slogan is A Time for Teaching, Learning, Networking, Service, and Fun! Some unique and creative ideas have taken shape over the last seven years, including:
- Ron Shapiro has created the presentation Games to Explain Human Factors: Come Participate, Learn, and Have Fun!!!, which includes interactive games for students of all ages (available for use via the NEM website)
- Marc Resnick has used popular music as a means for teaching ergonomics principles (Resnick, 2008)
- A number of researchers have employed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a means for teaching ergonomics principles (see Coyle & Vaughn, 2008)
- Jennifer Dyck has used EXIT sign designs for teach ergonomics principles (Dyck, 2007)
- Tracey Wortham has adapted common games, such as Pictionary and Jeopardy into ergonomics teaching tools (Wortham, 2006)
HFES notes that no effort is too small when it comes to outreach events. To have an impact, you don’t have to plan a huge, all day event that will draw hundreds. There are small, inexpensive, everyday activities that can promote ergonomics. These include things such as guest lecturing in an Intro Psychology or Engineering course, attending a career day session at a local middle or high school, or even just posting a bad design or HF/E inspired cartoon outside of your office or cube!
Also plan to attend the HFES 53rd Annual Meeting, in San Antonio, TX, USA. Among the many other conference sessions and activities, Steven Casey, author of Set Phasers on Stun and The Atomic Chef, will be speaking at the NEM Session about his experiences over the years with outreach activities. His talk is entitled THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY’ IN THE PROMOTION OF ERGONOMICS …with sincere apologies to Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.