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Engineers become explorers

Engineers become explorers

Many of the engineers visiting Chicago for the National Design Engineering Show seem to be caught up in the spirit of the Lewis and Clark expedition during this 200th anniversary year. Show goers aren't quite sure what they're going to find, but they're pretty sure they're going to come back with important knowledge that will be helpful.
Most engineers who took a few minutes to talk about their plans to attend the show have no pre-conceived idea of what they're going to look for. Instead, they plan to glean the best of what the show floor offers.

"I don't have anything in particular I'm looking for, it's more general interest," says Jeff Patrick, an electronic engineer at &B Electronic Manufacturing of Ottawa, IL. "Wandering the show floor" sums up the plan for Jeff Chopp, an EE who will drive south from Navistar International Transportation's Waukehsa, WI plant.

A Chicago engineer is either very excited about McCormick Place's location on the shores of Lake Michigan or he's using web terminology for his show plans. "I'm going surfing," says Dan Pilcher, an EE at Atlas Material Testing LLC. That surfing is more likely to enhance his knowledge of high-power electronic components and small motors than it is to bring frostbite.

Sailing through the aisles looking for something interesting is a good approach for first time visitors like Pilcher, according to those who regularly attend the annual show. "I've gone to the show the last six or seven years. I get lots of ideas there," says Dave South, an EE at Balemaster USA, a Crown Point, IN, farm equipment maker.

This year, South plans to drive in for a day, focusing on automation and control products. PC-based systems will be an area of interest as he examines both components and systems that can be used in the agricultural equipment he designs.

Others agree that it's not wise to get too specific, or attendees can bypass something that could truly benefit them. Navistar's Chopp will be thinking mainly about process control as he makes a return trip to the conference he's attended "a couple times." However, he notes that on past visits, he sometimes spent as much time looking at different technologies than those he planned to examine.

That's also true for Peter Sanford, an EE at Featherlite inc. of Cresco, IA. "I'm just curious to see what's new. I frequently find that when I'm walking through, I find something I can use," says Sanford, who plans to spend two or three days at the show. He's hoping that whatever he finds will help him improve his data acquisition systems. Strain gauge and position sensors are technologies that will be of particular interest.

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