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Integration Of Programmable Logic Controller Programming Experience Into Control Systems Courses

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

ECE Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.776.1 - 13.776.17



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Cavicchi Grove City College

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

Integration of Programmable Logic Controller Programming Experience Into Control Systems Courses Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Grove City College Grove City, PA 16127 Abstract

The two-semester senior electrical engineering course in control systems includes a segment on the programmable logic controller (PLC). The PLC is a valuable educational venue because it includes a variety of aspects that can prepare the budding engineer for the real world. Some of these are: the learning how to use and the features of massive industry-standard application programs (including digging through lengthy online manuals), the exposure to highly versatile and complex hardware that is ubiquitous in industrial automation, learning to work with other colleagues in a situation of limited resources (only one PLC, though there are multiple copies of the software, including an emulator), a new kind of programming—ladder logic in RSLogix500—that at the senior year can be refreshing now that the main programming languages in coursework are all too familiar (and at times frustrating), use of local area networking both for programming and running the PLC, learning and using a highly developed human-machine interface (RSView32), experimenting with the concept of simulation of the real world (via the debug file in RSEmulate), demonstrating in real time one’s work to the professor and being ready to answer questions about that work, appreciating the versatility of the PLC to do control and measurement of analog and digital systems, implementation of classroom/textbook concepts such as PID control in a real-world system with relative ease (RSLogix has a PID instruction), creation of professional-looking technical reports and the satisfaction of completing, as a result of much work, a successful project such as temperature control—and the realization that one is then just a few steps away from being able to succeed in a more elaborate project typical of post-graduate work either in industry or graduate school. The present paper expands on these ideas and briefly presents the three projects assigned to students for learning to use a PLC.


At Grove City College, the senior year has a two-semester course sequence on control systems (typical student class size is 15 – 25 students). The main topics covered are modeling, lead/lag Bode design1, the programmable logic controller (PLC)2,3, digital control1,3,4, state-space representation1, state-space pole placement3,4, optimal control3,5, and analytical robotics6, with introductory presentations on fuzzy logic3 and neural network control3. Within the senior lab course, there are five-week lab sequences on signal processing7 (using SigLab data acquisition), digital communication systems (two five-week sequences), microwave/waveguide systems, analog communication systems, microprocessors, and analog/digital control servo systems. Within the control system lecture courses, the PLC is taught in lecture and experienced hands-on by the students in three projects described later in this paper (one in the fall semester and the other two in the spring semester).

Cavicchi, T. (2008, June), Integration Of Programmable Logic Controller Programming Experience Into Control Systems Courses Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3084

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