ISA Expo 2007: Engineering skills gap, youth; connectors; awards; security

Day two of ISA Expo 2007 covered security, safety, process automation, enterprise integration, environmental & quality control, and wireless & networking, along with cybersecurity and the “skills gap” in manufacturing. Motion control, loop control software, connector system, industrial Ethernet were among other topics.


Houston, TX –The halls of Reliant Center were buzzing with some familiar recurring themes during day two of

ISA Expo 2007

. Content for this year’s event focused on six distinct “exchanges”– security, safety, process automation, enterprise integration, environmental & quality control and wireless & networking. However, the subjects which seemed to dominate the hallway conversations and garner much of the attention were cybersecurity and the increasingly urgent need to address the “skills gap” in manufacturing.

Click these article links to go faster to the news below:
- Control engineers: Next generation ;
- Lego Mindstorms ;
- Loop-Pro Academic software from Control Station ;
- Young Automation Professionals Festival (YAPFEST) and other programs ;
- MORE PRODUCTS : Opto 22 Snap PAC line, Phoenix Contact Variosub Push-Pull plug connector system, and GarrettCom Magnum DX900 Industrial Router for Ethernet;
- Control Engineering call for entries: 2007 Engineer’s Choice Awards ; and
- Building the bulletproof plant .

Control engineers: Next generation
The manufacturing “skills gap”– that situation which is created when the number of seasoned engineers and skilled manufacturing workers begin leaving the business faster than young engineers can join the workforce – is a concern that is rapidly becoming a front-and-center issue for many companies. Solution providers, end-users and everyone in between are feeling the pinch.

Dr. James Truchard, president and CEO of

National Instruments

, has been an active proponent of creating programs which both inspire young people to pursue careers in automation and engineering and help current professional engineers to become more efficient and more effective in their day-to-day activities. During Wednesday’s keynote address, Dr. Truchard underscored the urgent need for us to come together as an industry and address this problem.

Reversing the trend of fewer individuals pursuing careers in engineering– and an even smaller number continuing on to careers in industrial organizations – requires a multi-faceted approach, including capturing the minds and hearts of young people beginning at the grade school level.

Lego Mindstorm s
One of the ways that National Instruments (NI) is helping to accomplish this is by partnering with Lego and using

NI LabView software to power the toy manufacturer’s Mindstorms NXT line

. The combination enables children to build and automate their own creations while familiarizing themselves with the graphical, PC-based development environments commonly found in automation activities today. NI also sponsors competitions and community outreach programs, each designed to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a young age.

For students at the high school and collegiate level, however, the next step is demonstrating how to translate interests and aptitudes in STEM into practical application in the workplace.

Some companies, such as

Control Station

Loop-Pro Academic software , seek to do so by bringing “real world” process control scenarios into the classroom for hands-on learning. Other organizations take a more direct approach by bringing interns and co-op students into the business via formal programs with universities. Either way, the link between the academic and business communities is vital.

ISA is doing its part in this regard by hosting the second annual Young Automation Professionals Festival, a.k.a. “YAPFEST,” on Tuesday evening. The event, sponsored by organizations such as DuPont, Chevron and Control Engineering magazine, provided young professionals and students between the ages of 18 and 30 with an opportunity to network with peers and meet with prospective employers.

The event was well-attended– aided, no doubt, by the offering of free food, drink and entertainment by local band “11th Hour” – and it was encouraging to see so many of these young people walking the halls of the show and meeting with exhibitors. However, we as a manufacturing community must pursue a sustained outreach effort if we’re to entice fresh minds and new talent to our industry. Programs such as Project Lead the Way ( ) and the National Association of Manufacturer’s “Dream It, Do It” campaign ( ) offer two examples of how you can get involved, but keep reading Control Engineering in the months to come for additional coverage of this urgent and pressing need.

In other news and product introductions…


Opto 22

introduced several new additions to its Snap PAC line– including an S-Series programmable logic controller, serial I/O processors and analog input modules – as well as a new version of its automation software suite, PAC Project 8.1.

* Phoenix Contact unveiled new Variosub Push-Pull plug connector system, designed to provide IP67 protection in a “unique, user friendly, plug-and-play” form factor.

* GarrettCom , said to be a leading provider of industrial networking solutions, highlighted its new Magnum DX900 Industrial Router which features environmental hardening and flexible connectivity in a compact (9 x 9.5 x 1.75 in.) footprint for industrial Ethernet.

* Control Engineering announced the open call for entries for the 2007 Engineer’s Choice Awards. Click here to read more about the program , and link to the

Podcast to come
Members of the Control Engineering editorial staff who attended ISA Expo 2007 will produce a podcast covering their impressions of the event, so check back with us later and tune-in to hear the latest from the CE “mobile studio.”

Building the bulletproof plant
Perhaps the fires have been stoked a bit by the Department of Homeland Security video released earlier this year showing a power generator shuddering and self-destructing at the hands of a simulated hacker attack , but cybersecurity has truly become a hot topic amongst solution providers and end-users who have networked.

Although the simulated cyberattack featured in the aforementioned DHS video represents an extreme example of what can happen when security vulnerabilities are ignored, the concern surrounding security is well-founded. The big question, of course, is what to do about it in the “real world.”

Mentioned briefly in Tuesday’s coverage of the ISA Expo


by forming the

ISA Security Compliance Institute

.stablish a methodology for certifying compliant products, tests and testing agencies.

Security Compliance Institute founding members include Invensys, Honeywell, Siemens and Yokogawa, as well as BP and Chevron.

Read other Control Engineering ISA Expo 2007 coverage


Marc Moschetto, editorial director
Control Engineering News Desk
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