There are several thoughtful comments on my last ISA post (by the way, I am adding things to this site several times a week as I find time–just found the RSS widget, so you can easily subscribe both to the blog and to comments). In the past week in addition to proofing material for our November issue, I’ve been sorting through fact and rumor from last week. I’ve also had a bunch of conversations including about an hour with Jim Pinto this morning. I have no idea if ISA leadership is soliciting or listening to ideas, but there are many floating around. Jim and Dick Morley are discussing some revolutionary ones. Jon DiPietro has expressed some revolutionary thoughts as well.

The current president was quoted in the show daily referring to next year’s event, “It’s all about education.” The executive director was quoted as saying they are looking for attendance from top level people. It will be interesting to see how many people pay almost $1,000 (plus another $1,000 travel and lodging) to attend a conference. One thing is for sure, the sessions must be highly technical, no presentations from suppliers unless it’s from a senior scientist/engineer talking geek. There can’t be any of those generic “where’s the industry going (with a marketing spin)” from a bunch of CEOs or VPs of Marketing. Then there is my pet peeve–there must be ample opportunity for informal networking. The most valuable times at a conference is time spent in conversation with presenters and other attendees. If you can get a critical mass of people to come, the vibes would be fantastic.

I like several of the ideas from the comments and other conversations about opening up membership in ISA (making it less expensive) and also opening up channels of intercommunication. ISA could become a network instead of an institution.

I’ve also had a very brief conversation with Pat Gouhin, the executive director. I’m not a big fan of the political lobbying that seems to have become the centerpiece of the organization. He deflected that, but pointed out the educational aspect of the last Expo–bringing in busloads of Houston area students to hear a talk about engineering as a profession. I challenged him to check out what National Instruments is doing with FIRST robotics, Lego League and similar activities. Perhaps ISA could take the lead in finding project based engineering and science education for students. That’s something that even I would find time to help lead.

Anyway, I challenged Jim to put some of his ideas for change in his next Automation World column that will be out in early November. I’m sure it will be interesting.

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