Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

AutomationDirect sponsors lab at NIU

September 22, 2008

by Joe King

Joan Welty and Promod Vohra

NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology officially dedicated the AutomationDirect Automation Laboratory last week in historic Still Hall.

The sponsor of the lab, Cumming, Ga.-based AutomationDirect, is a leading seller of industrial equipment used in facility automation. Its extensive product line includes programmable logic controllers, touch panel control screens, motors, drives, sensors and hundreds of other products.

The company’s gift of $100,000, spread over four years, also makes possible a named term professorship.

“AutomationDirect has been a generous supporter of the college for many years, and we are delighted to formalize that relationship through the naming of this laboratory and the creation of the AutomationDirect Professorship,” said Promod Vohra, dean of the college. “We are proud to be partners with a company of its stature.”

The laboratory is equipped with an extensive selection of AutomationDirect equipment that students are likely to encounter in the workplace after graduation.

“Thanks to the generosity of AutomationDirect, our students have access to the latest technology, and their skills are on the cutting edge when they graduate,” said Cliff Mirman, chair of the NIU Department of Technology. “We hear from employers all of the time that our graduates have an advantage when applying for jobs based upon their familiarity with this equipment.”

NIU is one of about 15 schools with which AutomationDirect has a working relationship, but this is the first time it has named a lab and created a professorship.

“The manufacturing and automation industries need to encourage students to pursue technical careers by supporting these programs, particularly at the university level,” said Joan Welty, director of marketing at AutomationDirect.

“AutomationDirect wished to expand their educational support by establishing a strong presence in various regions of the country, and since we had already been working with NIU, it made sense to choose it as our focus for the Midwest region,” Welty added. “We feel NIU’s Technology program offers hands-on, practical experience that is a key to driving productivity and thus competitiveness in the new global marketplace.”

Andres Otieno will fill the role of AutomationDirect Professor.

In that role, he will supervise and maintain the lab and work with AutomationDirect to ensure that students continue to have access to the most up-to-date equipment. He also will facilitate the creation of programs to provide professional development training in the lab for engineers and technologists from local industries.