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Laboratory For Introductory Level Manufacturing Automation Course

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.293.1 - 1.293.6



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Paper Authors

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Jose A. Macedo

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

I Session 3257 .—-.

Laboratory for Introductory Level Manufacturing Automation Course

Jose A. Macedo Texas Tech University


This paper describes an innovative approach for conducting laboratory projects in the manufacturing automation area at the freshman/sophomore level. The students are given an operational automated system, and assigned the task of improving it in some sense. They are guided through the following steps: generate ideas for improving the existing system, prepare a proposal for approval by the instructor explaining the improvements, plan and execute the approved modifications, and prepare technical documentation. Students work in teams of three to four students. Each team is free to organize their activities, and there is no fixed time allocated for this laboratory. The projects are built using Fischer-Technik@ components, sensors and actuators. They are physical simulations of various manufacturing processes, and are controlled using a personal computer. The projects are carried over from year to year. At the beginning of a semester, each team receives all the documentation generated the previous semester. The students understand that the documentation they generate will be useful for other students in the future, therefore they are motivated to produce clear and complete documentation. Developing these projects requires a variety of activities. Several of these activities can be accomplished simultaneously if there is good coordination and communication between team members. This leads to discussions about the use of tools for project planning and control, concurrent engineering, and communication. Results from this laboratory are encouraging. The level of motivation in students is very high, and most of them complete the course with a very good understanding of concepts discussed in class.


Freshman and Sophomore level courses with laboratories usually contain demonstrations or a set of exercises with a fixed time, defined objectives, and predictable results. Although this is practical and effective in many areas of science and engineering, the tradeoff is a limitation in promoting the creative ability of students. Encouraging creativity to identify opportunities for improvement and to find solutions to problems is important in manufacturing automation because the rapid changes in new technology can make new solutions possible and feasible.

Traditionally, open-ended problems and design projects are gradually introduced in the curriculum, 6][7] with larger concentration in the senior year ‘ Although there are some recent reports of freshman 2][4] engineering design courses ‘ , it is not very common. Most frequently, engineering students at the freshman level are trained in solving problems that are clearly defined, all the data required is readily available, and the

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Macedo, J. A. (1996, June), Laboratory For Introductory Level Manufacturing Automation Course Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6157

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