- 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.”
A 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +1 919-314-3937.