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A Building-Block Approach to Industrial Controls Laboratories Using Programmable Logic Controllers

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Integrating Curriculum and Labs in ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Robert J. Durkin Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis

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Mr. Durkin teaches courses in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology; including the capstone design and independent study projects. He serves as a Faculty Senator and earned the 2013 Outstanding Teacher Award.
He has over 25 years of engineering and manufacturing experience including; design, project management, and various engineering, research and manufacturing leadership roles. He has been awarded two US patents.
He is an alumnus of Indiana Institute of Technology, and the University of Notre Dame; where he graduated Magna cum Laude.

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Industrial control systems design often incorporates reusable sections of prior design that can easily be adapted for new machine and process control systems. For instance, inclusion of a tri-mode control structure (Manual, Automatic and Set-up modes) often becomes a ‘cut and paste’ section from a previous control system design. The prior design is already proven, and development time is available for the newer aspects of the control system. This building-block method can also be used to structure university laboratory exercises for EET (Electrical Engineering Technology) industrial controls design courses. Reusing software sections from previous laboratories can enhance the student’s design capability by focusing lab time on the new problem instead of recreating the old structures. This paper describes a semester-long industrial controls laboratory using programmable logic controllers (PLC) as the primary lab equipment. It describes twelve increasingly difficult PLC laboratory experiments that generally build on the components of the prior labs. The final lab assignment is an open-ended team project to design a complete system for a typical industrial machine or process. All of the PLCs are networked to provide the students with communications content within the lab experience. The pedagogical features of the laboratory exercises are illustrated and results from student comments and numerical ratings of the effectiveness of the lab exercises and equipment are also included in the paper.

Durkin, R. J. (2016, June), A Building-Block Approach to Industrial Controls Laboratories Using Programmable Logic Controllers Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26257

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