Chris Elston, among Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 for 2010

Want to meet the next generation of manufacturing automation and controls leaders? In November 2010, Control Engineering highlights 19 young professionals from around the globe who are making their marks in everything from system design to academia. These leaders aim to inspire others to get involved in engineering and resolve local and global challenges through smarter applications of automation and control technologies. Meet Chris Elston ...


Chris Elston, Owner/Operator,, Control Engineering Leader Under 40, class of 2010Chris Elston, 35        

Website Owner/Operator, 11 years   

Huntington, IN USA         

Job function: Maintain website and publish articles on automation and controls

Academics: Bachelor of Science in Automated Manufacturing, ITT

Achievements: I've owned and operated a community website for automation and controls engineers since 1999. provides a neutral ground where users from all PLC brands can come and share experiences, share problems, or post questions. One of the unique features of is the nearly 900+ sample PLC snippet downloads that have been contributed to the website over the years, which have tallied up to over 2 million downloads. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind community website; users range from fresh-start engineers to engineers who have been in the industry quite some time to help mentor those who are new. is a fast-growing free resource site that many have enjoyed.

Control Engineering Leader Under 40, class of 2010 logoI've prided myself in helping others, and this is my contribution to my industry. As an 18-year senior controls engineer for two reputable system integrators, I've shared my experiences, knowledge, and passion for automation to all those who will read and listen.     

Engineering hobbies: I've been involved as an engineering mentor for the past six years to a local 4-H robotics club called Team THRUST 1501( Team 1501 is a US FIRST robotics team, one of 35 other teams in Indiana. Working with the kids directly allows me to stimulate our community youth using engineering skills to mentor them and to help grow STEM activity for our youth. This year I was honored with the volunteer award at the Purdue Boilermaker Regional.

Non-work hobbies: In conjunction with the Huntington County 4-H Robotics, our local police department contacted the robotics team about three years ago to build them a police robot to target practice. The students committed to this project and asked a few of us local engineers to help guide them through the process of securing funding and resources, and molding their skill sets to design, build, and deliver the required police robot project. Last year, the kids delivered FRED to the police department (

Another part-time passion might be my obsession with Halloween or Christmas lights. In 2005, I created a PLC Halloween in my garage for our neighborhood kids. I recorded about 1,200 trick-or-treaters who came through the garage in a two-day period (PLC Halloween: In 2006, I retired the PLC haunts and learned how to program Christmas lights after seeing a viral Christmas light video. Since then, I moved my musical synchronized display from my house to a local park, where I now partner with the City of Huntington to create a drive-through Christmas light display that is synced to music programmed by me and others in my local community.      

Start in controls: I was really given a chance of a lifetime when I was just starting college as an electrician helper for John Daniel Electric. John Daniel was subcontracted to build control panels for Shuttleworth, Inc. Because all of the electricians were busy, I was given a chance to build these control panels, which ended up with a job offer at Shuttleworth's panel shop. From there I worked my way up, finished my degree, and was placed in the controls engineering department where I met Kent Giant, now working for Automation Engineering in Fort Wayne, IN. Kent gave me the advice and encouragement to keep going and learn about PLCs. He taught me a lot about ladder logic and how to program. Everything I've learned in this field, I've learned by doing. I don't think it's possible to master Controls Engineering to its finest in every discipline offered. It's a forever-evolving career that changes year to year. For those upcoming, break out your laptop and start plugging away.

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- Compiled by Renee R. Bassett for Control Engineering.

See for other winners and other recognition programs for all ages.

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