Posted: Thu, 05/23/2019 - 12:15
I am a big proponent of teachers attending conferences. The annual Computer Science Teachers Association conference has become one of my summer highlights every year. I also have been to regional meetings of my local CSTA chapter and other events sponsored by colleges and consortiums near my school. However, there is something special about attending an industry trade show.
This June I will be going to the Robotics Summit and Expo being held in Boston, MA. The conference is promoted as “a multifaceted educational forum and expo dedicated to addressing the issues involved with the design, development, manufacture and delivery of commercial robotics and intelligent systems products and services.”
While I am not in the position where I would be considering a commercial robotics platform for my classroom, this is the perfect place for me to learn what types of skills my students will need to master if they are interested in pursuing a career in this field. For example, I will find out what types of languages are being used by company developers. The vendors will be demonstrating how their products are employed in various industries. Seeing how the state-of-the-art compares to the educational robots in my school can allow me to tailor lessons to better match the types of tasks my students will eventually need to perform.
At the very least, I can take photos, pick up advertising materials, score some stickers or pens, and maybe find some other tchotchkes that I can use in my classroom. Of course, I have some more ambitious goals than just wandering the aisles and checking out some cool robots. I have already reached out to some of the vendors and the show coordinator in the hope of securing some time to discuss how they can help my students with classroom visits, field trips, and lending their expertise to my curriculum.
Sponsors and Exhibitors List
The show coordinators always publish the names of companies that are exhibiting or sponsoring the event. This is a perfect starting point for you to learn what businesses are active in your area. For example, there are a large number of robotics companies that operate near Boston.
Locus Robotics is located in Waltham, MA and manufactures robots used in warehouses.
iRobot is the company behind the popular Roomba autonomous vacuum and is headquartered in Bedford MA.
Here are some reasons why it’s good to reach out to companies near you:
- They may be able to sponsor and help equip your robotics or CS classroom.
- They may allow you to plan a field trip to their facilities.
- You can possibly find out whether there are internships available for your students.
- You can request for an engineer to come to your school for a visit.
Suggest to them that their employees will likely be coming from a classroom like yours! With the well-publicized shortage of computer science and related skilled workers, companies would be smart to start cultivating local talent. While Boston and other larger metro areas have well-known technology companies, there are subsidiaries of many firms located throughout the country. Many robotics firms headquartered in Europe and Asia operate North American offices.
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no!
I reached out to Universal Robots (UR) and requested information that I could share with my students about their company. Here’s the reply I got from Dylan, the master trainer for North America:
“You can find a bunch of media info on our website here. You can find the free online UR Academy here. We also have webinars, eBooks, and a YouTube Channel. The YouTube Channel has a bunch of videos and case studies tied to industry, things like CNC Machining, painting, even 3D Printing!
Many trade shows hold job forums at the convention center. This is another great opportunity to learn what types of skills your students will need in a few years to work in the field. What better way to get the pulse of computer science today than to learn what technologies are most in demand by businesses?
Can Students Come Along?
Most trade shows will not allow people under the age of 18 to attend. However, this is not a universal rule, so reach out to the conference coordinator to see if they will welcome your students. When Linux World Expo was held in Boston, I escorted my computer hardware class to the show. The Linux Foundation sponsors events all over the world.
Trade Show Locator
The technology industry is diverse and trade shows are frequent, usually capturing a combination of specific technologies and broader themes. Trade shows that focus on Oracle Databases, Java, Blockchain, Python, and the application of technology to certain industries such as medicine, hospitality, retail, and aerospace are some examples.
Remember that conferences and trade shows are always being scheduled and venues that are used one year may not see the same events the following year. Here are some good resources that you can use to start your search:
In my prior career, I worked at eWeek which was the largest circulation newspaper dedicated to the technology industry. I have fond memories of my many trade shows in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and elsewhere. So I am really looking forward to my professional day in June spent rubbing elbows with the leading robotics companies in the world.