ATMAE National Conference and Annual Conexus Indiana Supply Chain Case Competition (Nov. 3-5, 2021)

In the book Pragmatics of Adaptability, Silva and Mey (2021) note that humans are adaptable.  Adaptability has been an inherent attribute since the pandemic.  College students have had to shift their styles of learning more than ever so that they can best adapt to new pedagogies in virtual learning.  Similarly, the global supply chain has forced us to adapt to a post-pandemic world of semiconductor chip shortages in the automobile industry, inconsistent initial access to the COVID-19 vaccine, backlogs of container vessels at American ports, and seemingly-endless worker shortages.  Recently, Purdue University’s own procurement department warned that impending global logistics bottlenecks are likely to impede operations and cautioned departments across campus to expect delays in products. Truly, supply-chain disruptions have been a common aspect of the post-pandemic world and have forced individuals as well as the global supply chain to adapt to new realities.

Upperclass students at Purdue Polytechnic Vincennes have been no exception to becoming adaptable.  In the Fall semester of 2020, in the midst of the annual 3-day Conexus Indiana supply chain case competition (which was virtual), a student was diagnosed with COVID and quarantined, so the team had to adapt and integrate him into the competition from his dorm room.  During the same semester, the students formed a student chapter of ATMAE on campus, and the fledgling club had to function in a quasi-virtual, innovative new pattern.


The local student chapter of the national Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) got off the ground at Purdue Polytechnic Vincennes in August, 2020, under the umbrella of our Tech 120 class. Leaders in class took on officer positions and held monthly in-class meetings due to rules prohibiting outside-of-class gatherings. Dues were paid to create official memberships, and students engaged with ATMAE by successfully completing certificates, writing by-laws, and virtually attending  career workshops and professional development seminars. During this semester, the club president attended the virtual national conference and became certified in Arduino, and an instructor in our program also attended virtually. In subsequent semesters, the club officers coordinated monthly meetings and initiated activities where new members could get more involved. The officers went through treasurer and president training from Purdue University and completed the process to register the club.  During the Fall semester of 2021, officers made preparations to attend the annual national conference in Orlando, FL. Mitch, our ATMAE president, took on club responsibilities by processing student club fees, completing club president training, documenting the faculty advisor’s training certification, attending a virtual meeting with the Purdue student activities & organizations leadership team, coordinating travel waivers, etc.

The officers planned on further engaging in more in-person activities with both ATMAE and Conexus, but just when they thought that they had the concept of adaptability mastered, they learned that the ATMAE national conference in Orlando, FL, was to be held the same time as the annual Conexus competition. Nevertheless, they insisted they could do both, at the same time!

In addition to our two ATMAE officers who attended (Mitch, president, Computer Networking and Security AS major at VU and David, treasurer, Product Design and Production Processes AS major at VU), two students were added to complete the team. They are finishing their degrees while also working in industry (Ken is Assistant Maintenance Manager at Toyota Boshoku in Athens, Alabama and Andy is a CNC Machinist at Hyflex Pumps in Indianapolis, IN).

The exhibit room at the conference provided a unique opportunity to learn about innovations in robotics and other trends in manufacturing. Industry 4.0 was a main topic.

Our club initially needed to get creative and hold our meetings during class time due to COVID protocol. During our second official meeting, in October 2020, we were privileged to host our first guest, Walt Pozgay, Senior Management of GE Labs in Louisville, KY, and a board member of ATMAE. Walt helped establish the credibility of the club early on, which we were able to share with our distance students. Seeing Walt gave us a chance to thank him and catch him up about the goings-on of the club.

It was cool that our nametags represented some of our responsibilities and accomplishments, such as successfully-completed Certification in Engineering Graphics and Certified Technical Manager.

A pleasant surprise was to find that Dr. Mesut Akdere, Interim Associate Dean for Research and Professor & Director of the Purdue HRD VR Lab at Purdue Polytechnic, was also in attendance and presenting research. We appreciated his graciousness and enjoyed learning more about his team’s research. This was the first opportunity for the students to attend an academic presentation, and several enjoyed it so much that they sought-out subsequent presentations later in the day. Everyone thought that their work with the US Dept. of Labor was fascinating.

Learning about the research of colleagues is a vital part of of any conference. While my own research was accepted way back in August, apparently our registration was a few days late and as such I needed to do a bit of cajoling to get back on the schedule. Luckily, the ATMAE staff was accommodating. The title of my research is An Assessment of National Private-Industry Fossil-Fuel Workforce Metrics During the Enforcement Era of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.   A research brief of my accepted research for an oral presentation is as follows: The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the United States’ sweeping air pollution federal legislation, was enacted to limit carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry to improve air quality.  Critics claimed that this would be the death stroke to the fossil-fuel industry and all related stakeholders.  While the positive results have come with unanticipated consequences, there has been little quantitative research on the effects of these regulations on those employed in related industries.  This study aims to fill this gap by assessing the impact of the Rule on professions associated with the fossil fuel industry.  Various financial metrics published annually by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics were analyzed using two-sample t-tests to determine the impact of the regulation on the financial health of inter-related domestic workforces.

Conexus of Indiana, Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics Collegiate supply chain case competition

Purdue Polytechnic Vincennes students had competed in the Conexus competition over the past four years, and we didn’t want the conference to keep us from being able to participate this year. David, our ATMAE treasurer, took the initiative to get the Conexus materials organized and coordinated before the trip and since he’s been in Orlando before, he took the initiative to recommend some social activities that the group would enjoy outside of the conference hotel. Ken was the case captain during the trip, and coordinated overall research strategies as students worked together to answer the dilemma in the case.

The Conexus folks graciously allowed our team to make our final presentation in the morning, which was the last day of the ATMAE conference so that we could make our return flight. Below are screencaps from the final presentation.

As happens during any professional conference, seeing the sights of the city is part of the experiential learning process.  It’s useful to familiarize ourselves with the local area to illustrate the nature of conference customs involving taking in the local color and learning how to get around and where to go. The supply chain is in constant motion and it’s important to not feel stuck or trapped at the venue. The ability to adapt and move ourselves to places of interest is much like the need for managers to keep the supply chain in constant motion via just-in-time or similar methods to increase efficiencies of operations.  Static humans and supply chains aren’t ideal.  The students decided to go to an Orlando Magic NBA game as an evening outing after the first night (see pictures below).

Universal Studios was another pleasant outing, which we enjoyed after day two (see below).  It was extra-special because the Thursday night NFL game included two favorite teams of attendees (Colts and Jets).  Because he had been to this area before, David, who is a massive Jets fan, was able to help steer the group through the entrances, security checks, and Uber drop-off points with enough time left over to walk around before our reservation at NBC Sports Grill & Brew.

Students in this program who graduate with their bachelor’s degree in technology from Purdue University land gigs in a variety of industries, but many at least partially involve global logistics and/or the supply chain. In our new, post-pandemic world where issues related to inadequate supply chains appear in a variety of industries including global trade, chip shortages in automobile manufacturing, airline flight cancellations, food delays, and consumer product shortages, this trip and its content are more useful and valuable than ever.  The economy of the state of Indiana is the most manufacturing-reliant of any state economy, and Indiana is the crossroads of America in both name and in the sense of the American supply chain.  Students gaining this know-how can, have, and will apply these experiences upon graduation.  From the Conexus site, “No state is better equipped than Indiana to challenge you and your advanced manufacturing and logistics problem-solving skills.” 

Students attending conferences always return with an abundance of confidence and enhanced skillsets that were previously underdeveloped.  I’ve learned that leadership competencies can be improved over time with wisdom and experiential learning, and national conferences like these are the best way to tap into those skillsets.