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A Laboratory Based Programmable Logic Controller (Plc) Course For A Manufacturing Curriculum

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Manufacturing Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.58.1 - 8.58.11



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Paper Authors

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Andrew Otieno

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Clifford Mirman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3247


Andrew Otieno and Clifford Mirman,

Department of Technology, Northern Illinois University or


The need for continuous reengineering of the curriculum is evident in this era where most companies are downsizing their engineering staff in an effort to provide cost reduction. In this cost conscious environment, industry is looking for employees that can fill numerous roles within their manufacturing facility. To fulfill these multifaceted industry needs, the Department of Technology at Northern Illinois University constantly assesses the program goals for the Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MET) and Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) programs. Over the past year, the Department has identified the area of controls and the integration of these control concepts into real life applications as an area for improvement. Based upon input from regional industry and the Departmental industrial advisory boards, the Department determined that many new engineers and technologists who enter the manufacturing industry have a good knowledge of PLC programming, however, they have very limited exposure to interfacing. To address this problem and solve the needs of our diverse student population, the NIU Department of Technology has developed a new laboratory based PLC course. This course, while teaching the basics of PLC ladder logic and programming, also provides valuable hands on experience in the integration of a PLC with sensors, motion control, vision systems, and robotics. The laboratory experience also includes the development of human interface to the PLC in typical automation applications, both with hand held devices and Microsoft visual basic tools. The students are also involved in a two-week lab based project that requires advanced PLC functions. The current PLC experience was implemented during the spring 2002 semester, the summer 2002 semester and is on its third phase in the fall 2002. This paper describes how this course has been implemented and improved over the three semesters, and some important outcomes from course evaluations received from students and our Industrial Advisory board. This new course will provide improved preparation for the MET and EET students in this important area of control and thus, produce graduates that are more competitive in industry.

1. Introduction

1.1 Current State of the Art The applications of PLC’s in industry are diverse, ranging from very simple process control to complex maintenance and data management applications1,2. PLC technology and applications are changing rapidly. There has been a major shift in PLC industry to introduce modules that can

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Otieno, A., & Mirman, C. (2003, June), A Laboratory Based Programmable Logic Controller (Plc) Course For A Manufacturing Curriculum Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11838

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