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A Unique, Undergraduate Plc Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 1: Controls

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.120.1 - 9.120.7



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Paper Authors

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Michael Rider

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

Session 1166

A Unique, Undergraduate PLC Course

Michael J. Rider, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering Department Ohio Northern University


This paper briefly describes the PLC course (ME-429) taught at Ohio Northern University as an undergraduate technical elective. In this course the students, working in groups of two, purchase from a storeroom all Siemens /Simatic TI /Direct Logic PLC modules necessary to assemble their PLC. Each group assembles and wires their PLC under instructor supervision. During the first two weeks, they design simple ON/OFF ladder logic programs that are entered through a handheld programmer. For the remaining seven weekly projects they purchase a Dell laptop and the appropriate PLC software, DirectSOFT32, from the storeroom. Each group is responsible for installing the PLC software on their laptop, then going to the manufacturer’s website and downloading the latest software updates. Ladder logic programs are designed and downloaded through the Internet to their PLC. The projects include digital logic, timers, counters, integer math, real math, PID control, and table look-ups. PLC modules used include digital I/O, analog I/O, high-speed counter, thermocouple, remote I/O, and PID control of a DC motor/tachometer arrangement. Their final weeklong project requires each group’s PLC to perform a specified task along with transferring their data through an Ethernet network to each of the other PLCs in the laboratory.

This course is unique in that it requires the students to assemble, wire, and hardware debug their PLC as new modules are added throughout the quarter. At the same time, they are designing and debugging new ladder logic and stage programs on a weekly basis. The students give a short oral presentation of their weeklong project at the beginning of each laboratory period before starting the next project. This course also includes a studio classroom environment. Often after 20 or 30 minutes of lecture the students get out their laptops and program short example ladder logic exercises that reinforce the PLC concepts just discussed.

This course has been filled to capacity each quarter it has been offered. At the end of this course students have rated their PLC programming confidence and their overall satisfaction in the learning environment very high. Plans are underway to expand this course and the laboratory.


The core engineering courses that are taught in most undergraduate programs are primarily structured around theoretical analysis and design. Often, modern control tools such as programmable logic controllers or PLCs are not covered in the curriculum especially in

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition. Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Rider, M. (2004, June), A Unique, Undergraduate Plc Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13160

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