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DesignCon: Suzanne Deffree Feeling Positive EnergyFebruary 6, 2024 | Marcy LaRont, PCB007 Magazine
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
On Tuesday, January 30, considered “day zero” of DesignCon 2024, I caught up with Suzanne Deffree, group event director, during the Samtec welcome reception. She gave me an update on the event, particularly the launch of an initiative called 40 Under 40, a years-long effort to enable the next generation of engineers, and their interest in sustainability. We also talked about Drive World, and the important new focus on electric vehicles.
Marcy LaRont: Suzanne, tell us a little bit about DesignCon 2024.
Suzanne Deffree: It is really exciting. It’s our 29th anniversary, and we're already off to a fantastic start. We're purely conference on Tuesday to allow our attendees to have time to hunker down and do deep technical learning. We have tutorials and boot camps today, and then our conference and expo on Wednesday and Thursday. There are 14 tracks within the DesignCon conference, and we welcome back the Drive World Conference again this year. It’s focused on automotive electronics and intelligence, a popular education track.
LaRont: EV is certainly a huge focus for electronics and pushes the envelope technologically. What specific tracks within Drive Word focus on this?
Deffree: In the past, the Drive World conference was purely focused on autonomous vehicles. This is the first year we are bringing electric vehicles into that education. We are also working with our sister show, the battery show based in Detroit, to bring in much of their education. We have a new area on the show floor focused on advanced automotive. At DesignCon, we know it’s not just about autonomous or electric. These worlds for engineers are coming together and you've got to design for both. The matter of climate change and designing for a more sustainable future is also a high-interest point among attendees, so we are excited to present education around electric vehicles and battery and power management within Drive World.
LaRont: Sustainability is a huge issue for everyone, both environmental and business sustainability.
Deffree: Somewhat related to that, this year we are launching our 40 Under 40 program, which has evolved after many years of DesignCon working to enable the next generation of engineers. We are honoring 40 up-and-coming engineers and something that we heard from them a lot was about designing for a better climate and a more sustainable future. So, it is certainly not only a necessity from the design standpoint. If you're interested in ensuring you have the talent of tomorrow, you need to be thinking about sustainability.
LaRont: That is also consistent with what we have heard from young professionals. It is one of their core personal values and employers must pay attention to it if they want to attract and retain workers. We talk a lot about the challenge of recruiting young people, making them interested in what we do, and showing them this is a viable career. I heard about a women-in-engineering event here. Talk a little bit about that.
Deffree: We've worked on diversity and career focus at DesignCon for many years. We aren’t just jumping on the bandwagon here. We have Melinda Piket-May, an associate professor in electromagnetics at the University of Colorado Boulder, who will be leading our panel about women in engineering with four other dynamic and talented women. There are many things we do to encourage diversity at DesignCon that folks may not even realize. For example, we ensure there are vegan meal options at every conference meal to help with dietary issues. We’ve also noted and addressed some religious issues. We like to make sure everyone is included, and everyone has the chance to climb that ladder.
LaRont: It’s good to see diversity and inclusion a longtime focus at DesignCon, and thank you for that. In nearly 30 years, the show has continued to grow. What really stands out about the show this year?
Deffree: We have 160 exhibitors, 40 of which are new to DesignCon. So, we are excited, not only to welcome folks back, but to welcome a lot of new companies to the expo floor. Another thing is about the DesignCon community. We have this amazing technical program committee comprising 99 people. You and I are here at welcome reception sponsored by Samtech, and I can't move five feet in here without seeing somebody I've known for years and is willing to help someone else in the industry. We had Tom Coughlin, the president of IEEE, speak today, and he concluded his keynote with how the people in that room could do things to better the world. That why many people got into this career, and that's what we want to do through DesignCon. We want to enable that community to better the world in whatever way they find their innovations and their engineering to do it.
LaRont: That is an amazing way to close out, Suzanne. Thank you for speaking with me today. Congratulations on what looks to be a very successful DesignCon 2024 show.
Deffree: Thank you very much for coming out.
I’m writing this in Santa Clara, California on the last day of DesignCon. It was nice to get out of Atlanta, which was 28 degrees when I left. It’s a little rainy here, but it’s been in the 60s all week, and I’ll take that kind of weather any day. In this week’s must-reads, we have a little bit of everything, including sad news about the passing of our columnist Michael Ford. Everyone who knew him just loved the guy.
Located in Silicon Valley, DesignCon may not be bulletproof, but it’s pretty close. If you’re an engineer working with chips, packaging, or PCBs, DesignCon is a must-attend show. Attendees and exhibitors said this year’s event seemed to be as busy as the 2019 show, which was a high-water mark for attendance right before the effects of the pandemic.
As George Costanza would say, “DesignCon is back, baby!” The show opened Wednesday morning, and it really felt like old times again. The aisles of the Santa Clara Convention Center were busy, and the classrooms for the technical conference were nearly full. And I spoke—or tried to speak—with quite a few engineers who spoke almost no English. That’s a good sign; in recent years, there were very few attendees from outside the U.S. because of Covid restrictions. The Pacific Rim is well represented this year.
DesignCon, the nation's must-attend event for chip, board and systems design engineers, today announces registration for the Jan. 31- Feb. 2 event at the Santa Clara Convention Center is now live. The 2023 expo will host technical paper sessions, tutorials, industry panels, product demos, 120+ exhibits and present some of the industry’s most influential companies, including host sponsor Amphenol and others such as Cadence, Keysight, Molex, Mouser, Samtec, and TE Connectivity.
Spring has definitely sprung, and the trade show season continues to roll right along. Managing Editor Nolan Johnson just returned from DesignCon 2022, and as he says in his review, the attendance was up from last year’s event, which had been at the McEnery Convention Center in the waning days of the pandemic. I hope we’re getting back to normal, whatever that means. This week, we have a few articles about Industry 4.0, as well as a column on setting your priorities. We have a cool article about methods for measuring the breakdown of resins during multiple thermal laminations, and a conversation with an EMS company president who realized that he was actually running a data collection firm that happened to make circuit boards. Can you say the same about your own company?