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Board # 146 : MAKER: Instructional Module on Use of a Programmable Logic Controller for Smart Traffic Light Control

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Make It!

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Jorge A. Piña Baltimore City Community College

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Jorge A. Piña moved to Baltimore from Chile, South America, to study Computer Science. He graduated from Coppin University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science in 1997. Since then, he has been working as the Coordinator of the Mathematics Learning Center under the direction of the Mathematics and Engineering Department at Baltimore City Community College. During this period of time he also has taught developmental mathematics courses from Basic Arithmetic to Intermediate Algebra. In his free time, he enjoys fixing his old BMW M3 and driving it as fast as he can.

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Sheng-Jen Hsieh Texas A&M University

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Dr. Sheng-Jen (“Tony”) Hsieh is a Professor in the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. He holds a joint appointment with the Department of Engineering Technology and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include engineering education, cognitive task analysis, automation, robotics and control, intelligent manufacturing system design, and micro/nano manufacturing. He is also the Director of the Rockwell Automation laboratory at Texas A&M University, a state-of-the-art facility for education and research in the areas of automation, control, and automated system integration.

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An instructional module was developed to help two-year college students learn about programmable logic control (PLC) programming. The objectives were to (1) develop a smart PLC controller to dynamically adjust traffic light duration based on traffic density within an intersection, and (2) evaluate students’ opinions and learning. The system consists of proximity sensors, a Click PLC, power supply, and two sets of green-yellow-red lights. The I/O devices were synchronized using a ladder logic program. Proximity sensors were used as inputs to provide information about traffic conditions within the intersection. The PLC adjusts the timing of the traffic light and remedies traffic congestion by changing the traffic light cycle as soon as traffic in the intersection gets heavy (based on inputs from the proximity sensors). The ladder logic consists of multiple sub-programs. Each sub-program controls traffic lights with different durations for each light. The proximity sensor status is used to determine which sub-program gets activated. Students have demonstrated how strong interest in the subject and find it very relevant to their daily lives.

Piña, J. A., & Hsieh, S. (2017, June), Board # 146 : MAKER: Instructional Module on Use of a Programmable Logic Controller for Smart Traffic Light Control Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27765

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