ISA promotes automation at USA Science & Engineering Festival

  • April 21, 2016
  • ISA
  • News

April 21, 2016 – An estimated 350,000 people—mostly primary and secondary students and their families—converged on the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. last week to participate in the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) event in the US.

The USA Science & Engineering Festival, a free, family-friendly exposition, featured more than 3,000 hands-on exhibits and experiments, and live performances by science celebrities, explorers, astronauts, athletes, physicists, musicians, authors and inventors—all focused on inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Attendees were able to test out flight simulators, interact with robots and jet aircraft, experience life on Mars, explore how the brain works, and discover a wide range of principles and concepts fundamental to modern science and engineering.

As the global association of automation professionals, the International Society of Automation (ISA) and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation, maintained a visible and active presence at the expo.

The centerpiece of the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit was a gaming system based on programmable logic controllers (PLCs)—small digital computers used for automating typical industrial electromechanical processes, such as control of machinery on factory assembly lines and amusement park rides.

With 96 bright lights blinking on the game’s viewing panel and an array of switches and buttons to be pushed, the gaming system quickly attracted throngs of attendees, both young and old. Practicing automation professionals—volunteering on behalf of the ISA Baltimore-Washington Section and the Automation Federation—operated the system, built using salvaged parts from plant training equipment.

Requiring more than 400 hours to design, build, program and test—and incorporating approximately 2,500 feet of electric wire—the system demonstrated: how control circuits are wired for lights, switches, and buttons; how the switches use binary math for game selection; how the programs are structured; and how mathematics plays a key role in computer game programming. It also illustrated control panel design concepts.

“It was rewarding watching so many kids have fun with the game, but I was most impressed by the ones who—after asking some questions—began to understand the actual automation involved,” points out Jayesh J. Jariwala, PE, Senior Project Manager at Applied Control Engineering, Inc. (ACE) and one of five practicing automation professionals who contributed their time and expertise at the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit at the event. “The game gave us the opportunity to teach some basics about automation processes.”

Jariwala was one of several engineers at ACE that assisted in the design, building and programming of the gaming system—a project proposed by one of the company's operations managers.

“The buttons, switches, lights and controller are all part of an actual automation system implementation,” Jariwala explains. “The game provides a glimpse of the type of automation at work in manufacturing. After all, these are important processes—inputs reaching the controller through wires and the controller sending signals back to the outputs—that are at the heart of the many technologies we depend on every day, such as mobile phones and computers.”

Interacting with young people at STEM events, Jariwala says, “keeps me excited about the future. I get to see the light in their eyes when they get exposed to real-world applications. I believe connecting with professionals in the field and the technology they use can inspire young people to pursue related education and careers.”

Jariwala, who serves as Chair of FIRST within ISA’s Baltimore/Washington, DC Section, encourages other automation professionals to get involved in sharing their passion and enthusiasm for science and engineering with others.

“I think each of us had a moment or series of moments in our lives that were significant in triggering our curiosity in science, engineering and technology. Working with young people provides those opportunities for them and delivers a fulfilling experience for us.”

ISA and the Automation Federation express its appreciation to Jariwala and the other four automation professionals who volunteered at the ISA/Automation Federation exhibit during the event. Also contributing were:

  • Rich Sommerfield, a 25+-year engineer at Bechtel, and President of ISA’s Baltimore/Washington, DC Section
  • David N. Erby, PE, an electrical engineer, Operations Manager at ACE, and a member of ISA’s Baltimore/Washington, DC Section
  • Bill Corish, a mechanical engineer, owner of Corish Engineering, and a member and webmaster of ISA’s Baltimore/Washington, DC Section
  • Kristen Sheriff, a chemical engineer and Associate Project Engineer at ACE

About the Automation Federation The Automation Federation is a global umbrella organization of seventeen (17) member organizations and seven working groups engaged in automation activities. The Automation Federation enables its members to more effectively fulfill their missions, advance the science and engineering of automation technologies and applications, and develop the workforce needed to capitalize on the benefits of automation. The Automation Federation is the "Voice of Automation." For more information about the Automation Federation, visit

About ISA The International Society of Automation is a nonprofit professional association that sets the standard for those who apply engineering and technology to improve the management, safety, and cybersecurity of modern automation and control systems used across industry and critical infrastructure. Founded in 1945, ISA develops widely used global standards; certifies industry professionals; provides education and training; publishes books and technical articles; hosts conferences and exhibits; and provides networking and career development programs for its 40,000 members and 400,000 customers around the world.

ISA owns, a leading online publisher of automation-related content, and is the founding sponsor of The Automation Federation, an association of non-profit organizations serving as “The Voice of Automation.” Through a wholly owned subsidiary, ISA bridges the gap between standards and their implementation with the ISA Security Compliance Institute and the ISA Wireless Compliance Institute

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