• January 2014

    Q & A: Peter Baker

    This month's Q&A is with Peter Baker CAP, CTech, the owner of IVy Automation and the president of IVy Automation, LLC., a company that provides instrumentation and automation consultancy with a specialization in measurement and control solutions. His range of expertise includes global product and business development, technical documentation, and consulting on technical issues and training.

    One of Baker's primary responsibilities is helping to manage the global business of The Alia Group in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trade zone, and consulting with the firm on business and product improvement, research and development, and technical issues. The Alia Group develops products and systems to meet the evolving needs of public and private energy and water suppliers, utility services, and industrial companies.

    As a volunteer, Baker is highly involved in the Future City Competition, a national, project-based learning experience where students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades use their science and engineering skills to imagine, design, and build cities of the future.

    1. Please tell me how you became involved with the Future City Competition*?

      The Twin Cities ISA (TC-ISA) is a contributing member to a local association in Minnesota called the Minnesota Federation of Engineering, Science and Technology Societies (MFESTS). The purpose of the organization is to coordinate and advertise inter-society events.  The TC-ISA board member appointee to this organization, Kurt Nordstrom, PE, suggested that I might be interested in their work and serve as a judge at the final competition of the Minnesota Future City Competition held at the University of Minnesota during National Engineering Week.  It was shortly after my first experience judging for MFESTS at the competition and getting a feel for the event that I thought it might be a good avenue for promoting the TC-ISA and the new ISA Building Automation Systems Division.  That's why each year, TC-ISA presents an automation award at the regional event of the Future City Competition.

    2. What has the experience been like working with students who are interested in our industry?

      It's been great. During the first couple years of the event, student interest and involvement was marginal. Students were slow to identify with automation and instrumentation. At that time, in fact, some students and teachers thought industrial instrumentation was the use of trumpets by General Motors. As time has progressed, though, more students have become more involved, primarily by word of mouth. In addition, the competition has been promoted and covered well by the local media.

    3. How else have you supported the Future City Competition?

      At the end of our second year judging at the regional event, Kim Hovey, CAP,PE, one of the TC-ISA team judges, suggested developing a video communicating the value of the competition and awards that we could post on YouTube.  Since I had the video equipment and a YouTube account, I offered to take on the challenge.  Our new video defines automation and instrumentation and the technology involved, and also provides real-life application examples. At the same time we completed the video, we broadened the scope of our Future City Competition award, presenting it to honor the "Most Creative and Innovative Use of Instrumentation and Automation in your City of the Future."  We believe the video does a good job of  explaining, through sound and visuals,this aspect of the automation profession and revealing some real-life examples, locally and from around the world, of automation processes and solutions. (Watch the TC-ISA video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3K8TFhyMsY)

    4. What is your role in the ISA Twin Cities Section?

      When I first moved to the Twin Cities from Vancouver, B.C. Canada, the TC-ISA was in a bit of a decline.  A local member, Bob Pickering, decided to revitalize the section.  Some other local members and I met with Bob to help rejuvenate the section. My past experience and involvement at both the Vancouver, B.C. and Calgary, Alberta ISA sections--to plan tours, talks, socials, and organize local trade shows and educational sessions-- allowed me to contribute my capabilities for the benefit of the TC-ISA.  As a result, I became the section secretary and then later re-established the section's newsletter.  I then became the ISA Section Delegate  for a short time, until moving on to the position of Future City Competition promoter.

    5. How can others get involved/ help with Future City?

      Please contact me, Peter Baker (Pbaker@ivyautomation.com) or Bill Knight (Bknight@futurecity.org)  at the Future City Competition's head office in Washington, DC.

      The Future City Competition gives students an opportunity to do the things that engineers do-identify problems; brainstorm ideas; design solutions; test, retest and build; and share their results. This process is called the engineering design process. With this at its center, Future City is an engaging way to build students' 21st century skills.

      During the Future City Competition, students work as a team with an educator and engineer mentor to plan cities using SimCity™ software; research and write solutions to an engineering problem; build tabletop scale models with recycled materials; and present their ideas before judges at regional competitions in January. Regional winners represent their region at the National Finals in Washington, DC in February. All of these activities help promote an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education during National Engineering Week. For more info visit www.futurecity.org.