ISA and Automation Federation introduce young people to fundamental processes of automation
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA – An estimated 350,000 people—mostly primary and secondary students and their families—converged on the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. last week to participate in the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) event in the US.
The USA Science & Engineering Festival (USASEF), a free, family-friendly exposition, featured more than 3,000 hands-on exhibits, games and experiments—all focused on inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. Attendees were able to test out flight simulators, interact with robots, get an up-close look at an Air Force F-16 fighter jet, experience life on Mars, explore how the brain works, and discover a wide range of principles and concepts fundamental to modern science and engineering.
At the exhibit sponsored by the International Society of Automation (ISA) and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation (AF), hundreds of young people and their parents as well as other visitors competed in a computerized game based on an actual industrial automation and control system.
ISA and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation, introduced fundamental automation concepts and functionality through its control systems game at the USA Science & Engineering Festival.
The crowds grew so large around the game and the ISA/AF exhibit that the festival staff brought in security officers and constructed stanchions in an adjoining open space to ensure an orderly, safe flow of participants and spectators.
The ISA/AF game is powered by a programmable logic controller (PLC), a small digital computer that’s at the heart of modern-day factory automation and industrial processing. PLCs make automation—everything from controlling machinery on factory assembly lines and operating amusement park rides—possible.
Practicing automation professionals—volunteering on behalf of the ISA Baltimore-Washington Section and the Automation Federation—operated the system, built using salvaged parts from plant equipment.
Requiring more than 400 hours to design, build, program and test—and incorporating approximately 2,500 feet of electric wire—the system demonstrated: essential control panel design concepts; how control circuits are wired for lights, switches, and buttons; how the switches use binary math for game selection; how the programs are structured; and how mathematics plays a key role in computer game programming.
“It was rewarding watching so many kids have fun with the game, but I was most impressed by the ones who—after asking some questions—began to understand the actual automation involved,” points out Jayesh J. Jariwala, PE, Senior Project Manager at Applied Control Engineering, Inc. (ACE) and one of several practicing automation professionals who contributed their time and expertise at the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit at the event. “The game gave us the opportunity to teach some basics about automation processes.”
Even members of the US military stopped by the ISA/AF exhibit to learn more about the value and importance of automation and automation careers.
Jariwala was one of several engineers at ACE that assisted in the design, building and programming of the gaming system—a project proposed by one of the company’s operations managers.
“The buttons, switches, lights and controller are all part of an actual automation system implementation,” Jariwala explains. “The game provides a glimpse of the type of automation at work in manufacturing. After all, these are important processes—inputs reaching the controller through wires and the controller sending signals back to the outputs—that are at the heart of the many technologies we depend on every day, such as mobile phones and computers.”
Interacting with young people at STEM events, Jariwala says, “keeps me excited about the future. I get to see the light in their eyes when they get exposed to real-world applications. I believe connecting with professionals in the field and the technology they use can inspire young people to pursue related education and careers.”
Jariwala, who serves as Chair of FIRST® within ISA’s Baltimore/Washington, DC Section, encourages other automation professionals to get involved in sharing their passion and enthusiasm for science and engineering with others.
“I think each of us had a moment or series of moments in our lives that were significant in triggering our curiosity in science, engineering and technology. Working with young people provides those opportunities for them and delivers a fulfilling experience for us.”
ISA and the Automation Federation express its appreciation to Jariwala and the other automation professionals who volunteered at the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit during the event.
About the USA Science & Engineering Festival
The USA Science & Engineering Festival is a national grassroots effort to advance STEM education and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. Our exhibitors, performers, speakers, partners, sponsors and advisors are a who-is-who of science and engineering in the United States: from major academic centers and leading research institutes and government agencies to cutting-edge high tech companies, museums and community organizations.
Our mission is to stimulate and sustain the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, and educational Festival in the world.
For more information, visit the event website at www.usasciencefestival.org/
About the Automation Federation
The Automation Federation is a global umbrella organization of twenty (20) member organizations and seven working groups engaged in automation activities. The Automation Federation enables its members to more effectively fulfill their missions, advance the science and engineering of automation technologies and applications, and develop the workforce needed to capitalize on the benefits of automation. The Automation Federation is the “Voice of Automation.” For more information about the Automation Federation, visit www.automationfederation.org.
The International Society of Automation (www.isa.org) is a nonprofit professional association that sets the standard for those who apply engineering and technology to improve the management, safety, and cybersecurity of modern automation and control systems used across industry and critical infrastructure. Founded in 1945, ISA develops widely used global standards; certifies industry professionals; provides education and training; publishes books and technical articles; hosts conferences and exhibits; and provides networking and career development programs for its 40,000 members and 400,000 customers around the world.
ISA owns Automation.com, a leading online publisher of automation-related content, and is the founding sponsor of The Automation Federation (www.automationfederation.org), an association of non-profit organizations serving as “The Voice of Automation.” Through a wholly owned subsidiary, ISA bridges the gap between standards and their implementation with the ISA Security Compliance Institute (www.isasecure.org) and the ISA Wireless Compliance Institute (www.isa100wci.org).