ISA and the Automation Federation demonstrate automation concepts at 2018 USA Science & Engineering Festival

  • April 01, 2018
  • Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Hundreds of young people and their parents visited the ISA/AF exhibit to play a game using actual industrial automation and control system components

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., 6-8 April 2018, 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 ISA and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation (AF), hundreds of young people and their parents competed in a computerized game based on an actual industrial automation and control system.

The crowds grew so large around the game and the ISA/AF exhibit that the festival staff made the decision to temporarily shut the exhibit down. After conferring with onsite ISA/AF representatives, festival staff brought in security officers and constructed stanchions (below) 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.