Automate 2013 in Chicago achieved record attendance of 10,975, following the best-ever year for the North American Robotics market that marked a 17 percent increase over 2011. Employers remain concerned over finding qualified personnel to operate these emerging technologies, but show attendance is a positive indicator as well.
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students seemed abundant, roaming the show floor interested in cutting-edge technology and searching for knowledge to give them an advantage in tomorrow’s job market. These students took advantage of “expert huddles,” small, intimate encounters with automation experts held right on the show floor. Others participated in organized tours between booths to get the run-down on exactly what did what.
“One of our goals is to work more closely with universities, community colleges and vocational schools to increase educational opportunities in automation to educate the next generation of workers,” says Bob Doyle, director of communications for the Association for Advancing Automation, the show’s host.
At least two academies were on site with their own booth space: Lake Superior State University, Marie, Mich.; and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y. Jeanne Shibley, LSSU administrative assistant to the engineering and technology department, says the university’s goal was to promote its engineering department. Two senior project students joined the faculty’s jaunt to the conference.
“They thought it was amazing,” Shibley said. “The two really enjoyed themselves and received several potential job offers as a result.”
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers a robotics and automation laboratory that houses more than 15 industrial robots from Staubli, Fanuc, Adept and Motoman. Part of the department’s curriculum requires students to assemble and program processes using these and a variety of vision systems, integrated work cells and standalone stations.