Mike's Blog: Quick takeaways from AUTOTESTCON 2018

A look at part of the AUTOTESTCON expo floor from Tuesday morning before traffic picked up.A look at part of the AUTOTESTCON expo floor from Tuesday morning before traffic picked up.

On Wednesday night I returned home from IEEE AUTOTESTCON in National Harbor, MD, just south of Washington D.C.

I’ve only been EE editor all of three weeks, and this was my first industry event I’ve attended. With approximately 65 vendors on-hand to exhibit, it was a perfectly-sized event for a newbie like myself. There were enough vendors and products to see, enough attendees to converse with and enough technical sessions to sit in on without being overwhelmed like might have happened if my first event was a much bigger show like DesignCon or Sensors Expo.

At AUTOTESTCON, which focuses on electronic test and measurement in the Mil/Aero arena, it was great to be able to meet and learn from many of the leading product suppliers in this space. Special thanks to Pickering sales and marketing director Bob Stasonis and Ametek director of marketing Jon Semancik for giving me a rundown on the recent history of their company, what they’re up to now, and what’s on the horizon.

I sat in on a handful of technical presentations during my two days at AUTOTESTCON, including one Tuesday morning in which STasonis and Pickering technical director Keith Moore presented a paper on the topic of “Choosing the Right Platform for Switching: PXI, USB, or LXI,” which showed how there certainly isn’t a one-platform-fits-all approach to switching, and the presentation broke down the factors behind the platform that determine which applications make the most sense for each.

Former EE editor Rick Nelson moderated a panel discussion Thursday on the topic of “Trends in ATE & Instrumentation,” covering a range of topics for panelists Mike Dewey of Marvin Test; Mike Sullivan of Teradyne; Charles Greenberg of Astronics; Luke Schreier of National Instruments; and Dan Dunn of Keysight. Sadly, I was unable to attend as I had to return Wednesday night.

During discussions with various vendors, the topic of T&M education came up often. Specifically, those talks were on the challenge of recruiting new engineering college graduates into the T&M field, as it seems most new engineering grads are more drawn to becoming designers. The idea of T&M companies investing in partnerships and/or internships with electrical engineering colleges was raised, as well as the overall need for more investment in recruiting.

AUTOTESTCON was co-located at National Harbor’s Gaylord National Convention Center with the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in a much larger expo hall next door. The conference expo included displays of missiles, drones, a full-sized Boeing fighter jet, and VR. Meanwhile, hundreds of U.S. Air Force personnel were everywhere, and Blue Origin and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos was the event’s keynote speaker. Certainly, the ASA’s conference had a much bigger “cool” factor than AUTOTESTCON. Even so, seeing both expos gave me an immediate appreciation for everything those in the MIL/Aero test and measurement do. None of the cool aircraft and weaponry could perform as intended if not for the immense work and innovation done by the T&M engineers such as those at AUTOTESTCON.

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