The 2015 Pacific Design Show was my introduction to the world of engineering events, and I’m getting ready for 2016. In February 2015, it had only been one month since I was hired as a technology editor for Machine Design. And one month into the job, I had to travel to California for the first time to attend my first convention. When I was president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at my college, we had job fairs. In these fairs, several companies like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, and General Electric would try to recruit young engineers. It was more about people-to-people interaction. Technology was never on display and it was not the focus. Those job fairs did not prepare me for first time I stepped onto the floor of the Advanced Manufacturing Expo and Conference.
The first thing I ran into, front and center was a Tesla. I could sit in it; see under the hood, and marvel at its lack of a combustion engine. I don’t know how many young engineers get to experience conventions, but I feel that with so many engineers going straight from college into a job, the number is quite low. I would guess that many engineers, unless they are involved in the world of sales or demonstrating new products, don’t attend these conventions. I was a design engineer at an aerospace company working on individual flight-control parts. It was never my job to demonstrate the aircraft, attend the helicopter expo or the Paris Airshow, or try to contract other companies for new technology partnerships. So being able to experience the new technology at the expo was an introduction to a world of engineering I was missing.
At the Advanced Manufacturing Expo and Conference, there are six events happening all at the same time: The Medical Device and Manufacturing Event, the Automation Technology Event, the Electronics West Event, the West Pack Event (focusing solely on packaging), the Design and Manufacturing Event, and the Plastec West Event. You walk across the Anaheim Convention Center seamlessly exiting one event and entering another. Last year I saw an infrared scanner that highlighted veins underneath the skin, a guitar being played by pneumatic actuators, 3D-printed clothes, and even a robotic arm that played basketball with me.
The amazing thing about going to the Advanced Manufacturing Expo and Conference or any technology expo for me is the new technology I will see. This is the primary reason I took a job at Machine Design. Working as a design engineer on such specific tasks, you develop tunnel vision. You are only exposed to the world you live and work in. However, engineering affects every facet of life and influences everything we do. To be able to experience the technology of tomorrow and how it will change our world is the excitement engineers strive for. I can’t wait to report back from the show on the new developments shaping the future.