Asee peer logo

Learning Process Control Wtih Legos

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.852.1 - 9.852.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Matthew Metzger

author page

Polly Piergiovanni

author page

S. Scott Moor

Download Paper |

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

Session 1526

Learning Process Control with LEGOs®

S. Scott Moor, Polly R. Piergiovanni and Matthew Metzger Lafayette College

Introduction One of the key challenges of undergraduate engineering education is providing students an experience that includes both solid theoretical underpinnings and a clear connection to industrial practice. This is especially important for process control, where students often find it difficult to connect the mathematical analysis with a practical application.

Over the last 18 months, we have developed inexpensive and flexible process control lab kits that allow students to design, implement and test their own control systems in the classroom. At the heart of the process is the LEGO® RCX brick, an inexpensive system that grabs student interest. Using the kits, students are able to construct the physical process with quick release fittings and implement the control system in software using LabVIEWTM Student Edition and ROBOLABTM for LabVIEW.

The first prototype consisted of level control for a single tank. The kit has been expanded to include level control for two tanks (interacting or noninteracting), flow control, cascade control and temperature and. The software has been modified so that a simple front panel is immediately accessible and understandable to the students, but, as they learn more process control theory, they can study, understand and modify the subpanels, which perform the control actions. The software is designed to work as a general control program for the LEGO RCX brick and will work with any sensors and control elements that can be interfaced with the RCX brick.

Development of the Laboratory Kits Flexible, inexpensive kits were developed which students used to quickly put together small processes and their control systems. The kits contained a pump, two tanks, and a variety of piping, fittings and sensors. The main pieces have quick release fittings1 allowing a process, including sensors and control valves, to be assembled quickly and easily. Students connected the sensors and control valves to a computer interface and “built” a control system in software. The details of the basic kits were provided in an earlier paper2.

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

Metzger, M., & Piergiovanni, P., & Moor, S. S. (2004, June), Learning Process Control Wtih Legos Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13264

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2004 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015