2019 ISA Student Industry Tour Highlights! - ISA Edmonton

2019 ISA Student Industry Tour Highlights!

June 24, 2019

A photo of our inaugural ISA Student Industry Tour group at Syncrude in Fort McMurray.


On June 4th to 6th select NAIT and U of A students got to see how major plants throughout Northern Alberta operate on a day to day basis...

The event was funded by the ISA Edmonton Section and organized by the NAIT Student Chapter. It included visits to the following industrial facilities: Dow Chemical (Fort Saskatchewan), Pembina Pipelines (Redwater), Syncrude (Fort McMurray), NWR (Redwater), & Packers Plus (Edmonton). Plus, they received a tour of select vendors at the Western Canada Manufacturing Technology Show in Edmonton. 

Organizer Insight...

Ana Stefanova, NAIT Student Chapter Advisor, was one of the brilliant minds (together with Aaron Boser) that brought the ISA Student Industry Tour to life. We caught with Ana to find out a little more it...

How did you come up with the idea for an ISA Student Industry Tour?

Students from the Instrumentation Engineering Technology program at NAIT have had the opportunity to participate in an educational tour of industrial facilities in Germany for three year in a row now (supported by Campus Alberta Grant for International Learning (CAGFIL), NAIT scholarships and the IET program). In a conversation with the students selected to participate in this tour, I was asked if a tour of industrial facilities in Alberta would be possible as it would definitely be of interest to students. A year later this idea become a realty thanks to our students’ involvement in the ISA NAIT Student Chapter and the support that the ISA Edmonton Section provides students interested in careers in instrumentation, controls and automation.

From an event organizer perspective, how did you feel that the inaugural ISA Student Industry Tour was received? By Industry? By Students? 

As this was the first time we organized a multi-day tour of this kind, we didn’t really know what to expect from the site tours. Our industry hosts had planed itineraries for our group’s visit ahead of time, and we discussed the personal protective equipment that might be required and what will be provided. We had an idea which parts of each plant we will be visiting, but we never thought we would be able to get that close to operating units, inches away from ethylene cracking furnaces observing the installed instrumentation, or entering state-of-the art control rooms. We were amazed at each location by the  level of enthusiasm and passion with which our hosts shared their knowledge and experience, and by the number of highly skilled professionals that took time from their busy days to greet us and talk to us. Many of our hosts expressed a deep appreciation of the ISA Edmonton Section and the role they play in connecting industry and education.

Ours students felt very special and highly appreciative of the attention they were given. The site tours and presentations gave them an opportunity to reflect on what they learned in class and labs, and see where and how the knowledge is implemented, talk to instrumentation, process control and automation experts, including graduates from their program of studies. They also had an opportunity to learn how ISA standards are implemented in industry and how valuable they are to operating plants. The insight the students received on what a day-in-life of an automation expert looks like, the potential career paths for them, and what the employers are looking for are invaluable.

The group created a special bond over the three days and two nights and are very grateful to the ISA Edmonton Section and the industry hosts for the opportunity. They are planning to stay in touch and maintain the friendships created though participation in this Industry tour of Northern Alberta, organized by the ISA NAIT student section.

If you had to pick a few things that stood out on the tour - in terms of a wow-factor - what would they be?

  • Climbed the third floor of the ethylene production furnace at Dow Chemical in Fort Saskatchewan.
  • Standing right beside the largest fluid coker in the world at Syncrude.
  • Stepping inside the world's first refinery designed to capture CO2 process emissions at the NWR Sturgeon refinery.
  • Watching robots being used in manufacturing and testing at the Packers Plus facility in Edmonton, and at the Western Manufacturing Technology Show.

Student Feedback...

The ISA student industry tour was exactly what I was looking for - an Instrumentation Technologist's day at work. Every company went above and beyond in preparing theit tour for us. I was able to see the live processes, control room operations, process automation, and in depth presentations from the perspective of the employees. I've met extremely talented and hard working professionals who were more than happy to share their knowledge with me. Thank you for this experience! - Marta Brzozowska, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

Participating in the 2019 ISA student industry tour was an unforgettable experience. It opened my eyes to the possibilities for graduates in Alberta, and provided insight into what everyday life is like in a variety of roles in the industry. The knowledge gained from this exposure, along with the friendships I made with the other members of the tour, are something I will carry forward with gratitude for the rest of my career. Thank you to the ISA Edmonton section for making this possible, and to all the businesses who were kind enough to share with us a peek into what they do. - Patrick Bower, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

Although I've seen industrial workplaces before, I've never had exposure to industry on it's grandest scale, which is exactly what I saw on this trip. Visiting sites like Dow Chemical in Fort Saskatchewan and the Syncrude oil sands was awe-inspiring, and meeting a varied group of professionals gave me a vision for success in the automation field. This was a very valuable experience, and I'm grateful to ISA for the opportunity. - Miro Sepkowski-Cook, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

The ISA student industry tour was carefully considered and planned; absolutely superb. Every moment of the trip was educational and enjoyable. Getting up close to a furnace, boiler feed water and fuel gas system at Dow Chemical reinforced what I learned in the IET program. In addition, visiting Syncrude’s control room and talking with an Instrumentation Technologist, a NAIT graduate, taught me the relevancy of ISA standards and IET program courses. Tour of the fractionation plant at Pembine Pipeline and a technical presentation at NWR Sturgeon Refinery inspired me to learn more about industrial processes. The unique experience I had helped me to better understand the different career paths available to engineering technicians and technologists in process industries. Furthermore, I got the opportunity to meet students from different programs. The memories I made on this trip will never fade away. I am grateful that ISA NAIT organized this neat excursion. - Beka Toli, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

The ISA student industry tour was an incredible experience. It was so valuable to have a look in person how industry operates. It was very interesting to see how the things I've learned in school are applied in the real world. I also learned a lot of new things that correspond to different fields of work that I would be working alongside with. The tour had some great locations and was very well organized. I also was fortunate enough to experience it with a group of amazing people, organizers and participants included. I only wish I got to go on a tour like this at the beginning of my studies as well! It would have been a great insight on how important the things we are being taught in school are. I had a great time, learned a lot and would do the tour again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. - Facundo Stricker, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

If it weren't for the ISA student industry tour sponsored by ISA Edmonton section, I wouldn't be able to step foot in the companies and industry plants that the NAIT/UofA group visited. I'm am extremely grateful for the opportunity that I was given. I was introduced to the most humble, welcoming, and just hands-down the kindest people, both from the industry, and everyone from the group I traveled with. I would, no doubt, recommend that the other students in the same programs to register and be active with ISA for all the experience and knowledge they could offer. - Cheliz Angela Santos, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

… It felt "too good to be true" to be able to go into the control room, visit the field site, to sit and chat with the department heads. ….As a new grad, this field trip totally opened my eyes, gave me a more clear view of the industry and even more confidence. Thanks to ISA Edmonton section and their sponsors, we were able to stay in nice hotels and travel safely. I definitely hope to be more involved with ISA after this trip. I hope one day, in the near future, I would have the resources to support such events. - Lucia Deng, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

While I was initially unsure how much I would get out of this industry tour, I was impressed every step of the way. While Packers Plus was the most aligned with my background as Machinist and Mechanical Engineering Technologist, I found the tours through the plants (Dow Chemical, Pembina Fractionation Plant, SYNCRUDE and the NWR Sturgeon Refinery) the most interesting and impressive. Having never been to a plant, everything was new to me. The things that stood out the most were the massive computer systems and the fancy control rooms. However, most surprising was the atmosphere and family like impression I got at SYNCRUDE and NWR Sturgeon Refinery. Again, I would like to thank you, Bob, ISA Edmonton section and everyone involved, for an incredible experience. - Bernie Fuchs, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

The 3-day industry tour was valuable, impressive and fantastic. We visited oil sands mine, refinery plant, petrochemical plant, pipelines, state-of-art drilling tool manufacturing faculty with advanced quality control system and automated components/parts storage and management system, and the Western Manufacturing Technology Show. We met industry professionals, learned how automation is being used in their various processes, how safety is been regarded seriously and the corresponding measures taken to ensure the 100% safety. If the outcomes mentioned above are what a student wants to gain, the ISA student industry tour is the best and only opportunity to do so. - Kevin (Hui) Guo, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

ISA student industry tour definitely broadened my perspective of industry. I learned that there are many technical processes to reduce the CO2 emission. Also, I am grateful that I had an opportunity to meet people who are working in the field that I am studying. I had lots of fun with good people and appreciate spending 3 days with them. I would love to stay in touch with ISA and recommend this trip to my classmates for the next year. - Derik Park, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

First of all, I would like to say a big thanks to ISA Edmonton to give me this great opportunity to visit the real-world of engineering that I can not ever experience in school. The trip was so amazing. No words can express my feelings now much I wish I could take part in the trip next year. During the trip, I got educated more in real-world engineering applications. In particularly, the control rooms were impressive, where smart engineering professionals are working. I wish one day I would be one of them.  The staff there shared their valuable experience and showed me how the system works in detail. Moreover, I got more friends from different backgrounds such as Instrumentation, Mechanical and Chemical Engineering. The trip could not be successful without the main sponsor: the ISA Edmonton section. In the near future, I am looking forward to volunteering with ISA in order to develop my social networking skills. - Tuan Ngo, ISA NAIT Student Section Member

It was great. I don't remember going to such an amazing tour during the past several years. The trip was very informative and I found good friends during the tour. I also would like to thank all the people at ISA NAIT student section involved in organizing this trip. - Farough Motamed Nasab, ISA U of A student member


A special thanks to the NAIT Student Chapter, Ana Stefanova and Aaron Boser for organizing this event. To Ana Stevanova and Bob Bahniuk for stepping up to be our chaperons. Finally to Dow Chemical (Fort Saskatchewan), Pembina Pipelines (Redwater), Syncrude (Fort McMurray), NWR (Redwater), & Packers Plus (Edmonton) for being amazing hosts.

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