ISA and Automation Federation take part in annual FIRST® Championship, an international celebration of young people’s interest in science and technology

  • May 03, 2016
  • Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

As strategic alliance partners of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the International Society of Automation (ISA) and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation, took part in last week’s FIRST Championship, an annual international celebration of young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

FRC team members consider last-minute adjustments to their robot prior to competition.

More than 20,000 students from around the globe, from ages 6 to 18, gathered April 27-30 at various venues throughout St. Louis, Missouri, USA to put their engineering skills and scientific know-how to the test in four different age-specific, team-oriented FIRST programs. This year’s championship event drew more than 900 student teams from 42 countries around the world.  

The FIRST Championship features three separate robotics competitions—the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship (grades 9-12); the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship (grades 7-12); and the FIRST LEGO League World Festival (grades 4-8)—as well as the FIRST LEGO League Jr. World Festival Expo (grades K-3).

A centerpiece of the four-day event was the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of designing and building robots. The competition provides students, from grades 9 through 12, with the opportunity to use sophisticated software and hardware, learn from professional engineers, collaborate, earn recognition, and qualify for millions of dollars in college scholarships. In all, more than 78,500 high school students, comprising 3,140 teams from 24 countries, participated in FRC regional competitions.

In support of this year’s FIRST Championship, ISA and the Automation Federation hosted an informational exhibit where student competitors could learn about the automation profession and how to plan for careers in the field.

FIRST continues to grow and attract amazing kids from around the world,” proclaims Steven Pflantz, an electrical and automation engineer and ISA and Automation Federation leader who has now attended all six FIRST Championship events held in St. Louis. “Every year I look forward to this event, visiting with some of the brightest and best young people worldwide. There are concerns that there are not enough students entering STEM-related career fields, but this event calms a lot of those concerns. The consistently high caliber of individuals involved demonstrates that FIRST has a winning approach to attracting young people to STEM and developing their interest and aptitude.”

FIRST official encourages an FRC team member through a celebratory high five.

Pflantz was among a group of practicing automation professionals from the St. Louis area—volunteering on behalf of ISA and the Automation Federation—that met with FIRST competitors and their family members to answer questions about career opportunities in automation and engineering.

Joining Pflantz, an Associate at CRB Consulting Engineers, at the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit were:

  • Gregg Dougan – Account Manager, Experitec, Inc.
  • Cory Kniepp – Sales Manager, Analytical & Medical Technologies, ASCO Emerson
  • Stephen Huffman – Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Mead O’Brien, Inc.
  • Nick Erickson– Sales Representative, Instrumentation & Controls, Mead O’Brien, Inc.
  • Keith Thomas, CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc.
  • Alec Hughes, CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc.
  • Teresa Lanuza, CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc.
  • Brittany Lynn, ISA staff member 

Demand for trained automation professionals continues to grow

In simple terms, automation professionals create and apply technology to control and monitor the production of goods and services. Automation professionals are needed in virtually all areas of manufacturing and industrial innovation, including:

  • Oil, wind, and solar power production
  • Pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing
  • Food and beverage manufacturing
  • Computer software and networking
  • Industrial cybersecurity
  • Government, military, and national defense
  • NASA and space programs
  • Automotive industry, including the racing industry
  • Amusement parks, including roller coaster and ride design

Career options are bright in engineering and automation because the demand for qualified employees in these fields far outstrips availability. In the US, the number of science and engineering jobs over the past decade has grown three times more quickly than jobs in other sectors.

At the same time, colleges and universities aren’t producing enough graduates to fill the jobs. Just half of college students who start with a science- or math-related major graduate with this type of degree, according to a recent report from the US Department of Commerce.

By one estimate, the US alone will need more than 120 million workers with advanced manufacturing skills by 2020. At the current pace, America will prepare less than half of that number.

For more information on possible careers in automation, please contact Michael Marlowe, Managing Director and Director of Government Relations at the Automation Federation, at or by calling +1 919-314-3937.


Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering.

With support from more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and nearly $25 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST®Robotics Competition for students in grades 9-12; the FIRST® Tech Challenge for grades 7-12; the FIRST® LEGO® League for grades 4-8; and the FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. for grades K-3. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to

About ISA

The International Society of Automation ( 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, a leading online publisher of automation-related content, and is the founding sponsor of The Automation Federation (, 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 ( and the ISA Wireless Compliance Institute (

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