STEM to the Core: This Means You

Though Control Design is focused primarily on the controls and automation technology within the machines that you build, we of course look from time to time at the broader issues affecting how you do your job, including logistics, collaboration and society’s ability to educate and interest the innovative machine builders and control engineers who will follow in your footsteps.

On that last point, readers of both our print and online version have shown that they are passionate—concerned about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, and excited about building new opportunities for the next generation.

We share your concern and enthusiasm, and so have created this newest forum for ControlDesign.com devoted to discussion of STEM issues: "STEM to the Core." In this space, we will share what we hear from the industry about the latest initiatives in STEM education and workforce development, and we'll give our perspective on what they mean for the industry.

We’ll hope you’ll join us as well, sharing your own viewpoints, concerns, ideas and initiatives with the rest of the community. Chime in now, and let us know what you’re up to.

To get the ball rolling, here are some of our recent columns and discussions on the STEM subject:

Do any of the points made here ring true for you? Or do people have it wrong? Let us know.

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  • <p>For the past 8 years, I have mentored a high school FIRST Robotics team. As a 15 year seasoned controls engineer, I find it rewarding to lead a group of kids and explain to them control theory. Even though we aren't using PLCs in the robots, we are using a National Instrument CRIO's which is programmed via Labview. The kids learn much about electrical design, basic skills, proper hand tools, control theory, PID loops and how to tune them. I get great enjoyment teaching the kids. The 2012 FIRST Robotics build season is about to end, and competition season is about ready to start. 30 high school kids have learned from volenteer engineers in my community who mentored them the past 6 weeks. Be it controls, electrical, software, or mechcanial design. Even with the support of so many great sponsors such as AutoDesk who supplies each member of our team free Autodesk software, such as Inventor or Electrical, these kids at the high school age are already exposed to the things we do on a daily bases. I see a direct impact with the kids and I believe it's working. I am able to use the network of people I know in my area to get these kids summer jobs working with automation for surrounding companies. Yes I am passionate about what I do, I even teach a LEGO FLL team as well which is the feeder to the high school robotics team. You have my vote for trying to get more kids interested in controls and automation. -Chris Elston, Huntington County 4-H Robotics, Team THRUST 1501, www.huntingtonrobotics.org</p>

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  • <p>We've sponsored the Robotics program in our county for over six years now, and the benefits have been outstanding. We give the funds to a supervisory committee, and they support any/all robotics teams - this now includes over 100 teams in FIRST, BEST, VEX and MATE competitions from grade school through high school. Since by now literally thousands of kids have participated, the local community is very aware of the programs and how they are helping kids get excited about being involved with something other than traditional sports.</p> <p>We as a company have also benefited - we hire a few high school students as interns every year, and the work they do is amazing. For example, one is developing a mobile app and our Web programmers say they don't have anything they can teach him - he's already beyond their skills in that area. Another, now a college student, does video and animation for marketing, including commercials that run at the local movie theater, and that has helped him build his portfolio.</p> <p>Once these kids experience the challenge, it really sticks with them and most go on to study for STEM degrees in college. </p> <p>- Joan Welty, AutomationDirect, Cumming, GA</p>

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