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Gerald W. Cockrell, CAP, 2009 Society President

2009: From student games to Russia section programs

My year as ISA president started 1 January 2009. My ISA career focused on bringing increased awareness and interest in instrumentation and automation to students of all ages. Starting when I was District 6 vice president, a small group of ISA colleagues and I started thinking about how we could engage young people in the field and profession. Early efforts produced a competition with students solving automation-related problems and participating in a “quiz bowl.” Major work on these things were completed in District 6 and 8.

These efforts eventually produced the International Student Games. The games were run in a number of districts with winners having the opportunity to travel to the ISA Conference and Exhibit to participate in the International Student Games event. It was a success as both a competition and as a vehicle to increase awareness of the profession.

Once I became ISA president-elect, my excitement was quite high to increase my focus on students and future automation professionals. But, if you remember, the huge thing that occurred in 2009 was 2008—that year of turmoil in the financial markets and the world economy. It became clear early in my year as president that this was going to become my focus. We made some very hard decisions in an effort to stabilize ISA financially. I am proud to have worked with a very effective board of directors and ISA staff to help ensure the future success of ISA.

Memories of my year as president include trips to Russia, Brazil, Mexico, India, U.S., and Canada, to name a few destinations, and special times with sections to speak to members about the Society. The chance to bring ISA to the members and speak about the great things occurring to the benefit of the members was very special.

Some accomplishments at the top of my list include my efforts with the Russia Section and St. Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation (SUAI). We still offer a Skype course for SUAI students on project management principles. The 15th class was completed in May 2019, and we look forward to the next class starting this fall. Also, an annual International Student Conference developed and offered by Indiana State University (ISU) and SUAI has given students the opportunity to present papers on projects to a global audience. This program is also still offered. The ISA Student Scholarship program is an ongoing program that awards monetary funds to top-level college and university students from around the world.

There have been a number of changes to the automation profession in the 10 years since my term in office. As a person who joined the Instrument Society of America in 1985, the changes are no less than astounding. The advances in technology are difficult to explain. It is like explaining to grandchildren that we once had cellphones that were in a bag or the size of a brick. Their look of disbelief is humorous to those who lived through that time.

The advances in computers, software, networking, and smart sensors in our field make it obvious and fortuitous that we, as an organization, had the foresight to change our name from “instrumentation” to “automation.” The technology dictated this change. We are indebted to the leaders who made that decision.

From my observations, ISA beyond the 75th year is strong in terms of service to the profession. Our field of automation encompasses many new focus areas that we may not have considered part of our field. We should not hesitate to claim new and emerging automation applications as our own. After all, we are the automation society for the world.

Gerald W. Cockrell, CAP, 2009 Society President

This article is part of September/October 2020 InTech—the ISA 75th Anniversary Special Edition