Project Objective: Design a program to certify that petroleum bulk storage operators know how to comply with federal and state safety requirements.
Project Background: Under federal and state law, operators of petroleum bulk storage (PBS) tanks larger than 55 gallons must be specially trained and certified to keep the tanks in compliance with strict safety and regulatory requirements to manage environmental risk. These operators must pass a DEC-administered exam that demonstrates their competence in operating their PBS systems.
In addition to training material and a written exam, which the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation developed with Stantec, the DEC needed to develop an online examination. Russ Brauksieck, chief of facility compliance for the DEC’s Bureau of Technical Support, recommended that Stantec work with Troy Web Consulting to design and build the exam software.
The Challenge: The online exam component required Troy Web Consulting to create software that:
Provided a secure environment for operator login
Drew from a database of questions to create a unique exam for each test taker
Graded each individual exam
Communicated a pass/fail mark to the test taker
Stored the exam for the DEC to evaluate question effectiveness
Troy Web Consulting worked with the DEC and Stantec team for more than a year to develop a secure, reliable online testing system that met the project objectives. Six months before the exam went live, the DEC—in conjunction with Troy Web Consulting—conducted a pilot study of 300-400 users, who spent days evaluating the effectiveness of each exam question. Brauksieck says Troy Web Consulting responded quickly to changes that needed to be made on the fly. Even after the test went live, Troy Web Consulting worked behind the scenes to ensure that the software and server continued running smoothly. “It was amazing what they did and how quickly they did it. They had it all figured out.”
Brauksieck said Troy Web Consulting anticipated the DEC’s future needs, as well. “Troy Web foresaw our need to eventually offer the exam in different languages and add and delete questions. They proactively designed the online component so that if we do need to do those things in the future, it’s all set up,” Brauksieck says. “They also understood our long-term desire to bring the server in-house. They went out of their way to make sure they understood the requirements for us to migrate it internally. We’ve been very appreciative.”
Business Impact: The online exam launched in October 2015. Brauksieck says they’ve measured the project’s impact by the number of accounts that have been created by UST operators across the state. Prior to the online exam launch, the DEC estimated that 5,000 accounts would be created. They’ve doubled that number. Currently, approximately 10,000 accounts have been opened statewide. And although not everyone who takes the exam passes, the new system has resulted in 7,392 certified operators.
“We saw a bi-modal peak when the online exam component launched. We had those operators who knew they needed to get certified and created an account right away, resulting in a heavy load on servers pretty quickly,” Brauksieck explains. “After that, it dropped off until we alerted people that the due date was fast approaching. Then we saw our second peak, with thousands of people trying to get the test done. Even with all of that traffic, we saw only very minor glitches, and Troy Web Consulting acted quickly to resolve any issues.”
Barbara Wagner, an environmental engineer at Stantec's Rochester, New York office, says Troy Web Consulting has consistently helped them meet the DEC’s specs and deadlines.
“We had a one-shot window to test a beta-version application with hundreds of volunteers from around the state. There was no second chance if the app didn’t work,” Wagner says. “The app was ready on time, worked as designed and resulted in kudos from the client. We appreciated Troy Web Consulting’s attention to understanding our project needs and the importance of good client relations.”
“This project was a true team effort, and really demonstrates the need to effectively manage a project with a variety of moving parts and different stakeholders,” says Jon Briccetti, CEO of Troy Web Consulting. “Planning on the project required a careful balance of varying concerns and impacts. We used agile development methods to deal with unmovable deadlines and steep technical requirements. We had to address technical risks with proof-of-concepts early on and we carefully designed the system to operate under heavy peak usage so there would be no issues as the looming certification deadline approached. Our User Experience team designed a minimalist interface for exam takers to reduce the least impact to their business process and make it very simple to use. We designed and built a system that enabled DEC to actualize their goals, meet the new regulatory requirements and further manage risk in the environment. That’s a win for everyone.”
Learn more about New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation