May/June 2012
Young Innovators

Education does not stop when you get your degree

By Jessica Carson

Some people go through life knowing exactly what they want and how to get there. They begin their career in their early 20s, and by the time they are 30 they are already well-established in their field.

I took a different path. I tried my hand at a few different jobs and settled on being a school teacher and a piano teacher. While this was quite a rewarding experience, my mind stagnated. There was little mental challenge for me, and I wanted something more.

While taking some general classes at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), I found out about the different programs they offer and learned more about Instrumentation Engineering Technology. I was not too sure what this entailed, but after a few phone calls I realized this program would enable me to be versatile in my career. The other draw was an apparent universal job security as opposed to some of the other offered programs. So I decided to give it a try.

I was fortunate enough to have some passionate instructors and enthusiastic classmates. ISA had been mentioned throughout my first year, but only in my second year did I get fully involved. The Edmonton Section president at the time, Marty Bince, made it a point to give me leadership opportunities within ISA. Paired with very active NAIT instructors in ISA, this helped significantly increase the exposure and interest level of ISA within the student body.

The ISA Edmonton Section is very supportive of student participation. The members are willing to do whatever they can to help get students involved in monthly technical meetings and the various events throughout the year. They decided to bring back student competition to get more students interested in Instrumentation and to give the technical college NAIT and the University of Alberta a taste of what the other does in automation.

Thankfully, we had a great team, which was composed of student representatives and faculty members from each school with much guidance from the Board of Directors of the Edmonton Section. After many coffee nights, phone calls, and endless e-mails, we were able to devise a few different challenges based on different areas for the ISA Student Games. Challenges included programming, troubleshooting, positioner installation, and tube bending. With the help of many corporate sponsors and the hard work of the ISA Edmonton Section, the event was a great success. The engineering students from the University of Alberta were able to complete some hands-on tasks. Both schools were able to work together and utilize each other's strengths to complete the prepared tasks.

After graduation, I was one of the lucky few who got a job right away. I was able to join a supportive company and work with a wonderful team. Along with my job, I had a desire to stay active within ISA and took a position on the Board of Directors as Student Liaison. This enabled me to help the students with the next ISA Student Games. Thanks to great feedback from the previous year, the second event went even better than the first, and we hope to have a succession of eager students to continue this new tradition.

My department manager at work is very supportive of ISA and tries to help whenever possible. ISA technical meetings are always posted on our intranet site, and we are encouraged to browse through webinars and training provided by ISA.

I will continue to be active in ISA and the industry whenever possible and to work closely with the students at NAIT and University of Alberta, so as to instill in them that education does not stop with the receiving of their degree. The technology of instrumentation is ever-growing, and it is imperative to keep on top of the latest in what our industry has to offer.

ISA does not end with reading an article, a textbook, or attending a seminar. ISA brings education through its members. With all the connections I have made through ISA, I have had the chance to learn in large doses through each of the people I have spoken with. Most are more than willing to share a bit of knowledge, as that is how our community thrives.

Every year, more and more industry experts are retiring, and it is up to young professionals to glean their knowledge so that we can carry on the precedent of quality and innovation they have brought forward.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Carson is an Automation Technologist working for WorleyParsons Canada in Edmonton, Alberta.