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A Quick And Easy Plc Learning Experience For Mechatronics

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Embedded Computing

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.107.1 - 11.107.11



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Paper Authors

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Clark Merkel Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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David Fisher Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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

Session _____

A Quick and Easy PLC Learning Experience for Mechatronics

Clark T. Merkel and David Fisher, Mechanical Engineering Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Abstract: This paper discusses how the topic of programmable logic controllers was added to an existing senior level course in the mechanical engineering program at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. A two week “PLC” experience was implemented based on the use of Allen-Bradley Pico PLCs and the Picosoft application software. Additionally two different laboratory demonstration stations were built in-house to provide a “hands-on” control experience for students. This paper talks about how the “PLC” experience has been implemented and how well it has been received as part of the mechatronics course.

Introduction: Mechatronics at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has historically been a class focused on the use of microcontroller devices and the language skills needed to program them. In this course, students learn to program a Handy Board microcontroller and use it to monitor a variety of different sensors and control a number of different output devices such as DC motors or relays. This course is the first exposure for most students in the mechanical engineering program to digital systems and smart control. The class meets for a fifty minute lecture period three times a week and for a three hour laboratory once during the week over the ten week quarter. The laboratory primarily attempts to develop the students’ ability and understanding of a Handy Board microcontroller. They work through five or six structured tutorials and gain ability to use the Handy Board as a smart controller. In addition the work with this microcontroller, three weeks of the laboratory are devoted to digital breadboarding and learning to program and build circuits for PIC microcontrollers. The quarter is capped by a three week project where the students design and build a system or device which uses the Handy Board microcontroller as the brains for their project. As a first exposure to smart control, the Handy Board is an easy- to-use and robust hobby controller. However, it is not a commonly used industrial device, nor is it suited to be an embedded controller for projects in other courses which the students take later on.

To address these perceived weaknesses, the course content has been expanded to include a module on programmable logic controllers (PLCs). A PLC is another name for industrial computer. It has been designed to have features which make it very useful in an industrial setting, such as being rugged and reliable, having easy-to-access ports for input and output to interact with other machines and sensors, modular design to allow for quick and easy interchangability, and programmability that is both convenient and relatively easy to use. While some PLCs may be programmed using formal languages, many are programmed using a graphical program interface such as ladder logic. “Proceedings of the 2006 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2006, American Society for Engineering Education”

Merkel, C., & Fisher, D. (2006, June), A Quick And Easy Plc Learning Experience For Mechatronics Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--513

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