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Multi Modal Process Control Education: Experiment Kits & Simulation In The Classroom

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1085.1 - 12.1085.14



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Paper Authors


S. Scott Moor Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne

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Scott Moor is an Assistant Professor of Engineering and coordinator of First-Year Engineering at Indiana University Purdue University† Fort Wayne. He received a B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from M.I.T. After over a decade in industry he returned to academia at the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Ph.D. in
Chemical Engineering and an M.A. in Statistics. He is a registered Professional Chemical Engineer in California. His research intersts include Engineering education with an emphasis on developing and testing educational materials and settings that stimulate serious play

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Polly Piergiovanni Lafayette College

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Polly Piergiovanni is an Associate Professor and Acting Head of Chemical Engineering at Lafayette College. She received a B.S. from Kansas State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, both in Chemical Engineering. Her research interests include cell culture and fermentation , and the LEGO project.

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

Multimodal Process Control Education: Experiment Kits & Simulation in the Classroom Abstract

Process control is a difficult subject for students to grasp. Student difficulties include understanding how to apply what they are seeing in the classroom, how to connect it to other material they have learned, how to design a control system and how to understand the unsteady state nature of control problems. It can also be a difficult subject for faculty to teach particularly for them to include both analysis and synthesis, both transfer functions and equipment.

Often separate laboratory sessions and simulation assignments are used to help students understand the application of what they are doing and to gain an appreciation for non-steady state operation. However these effective approaches do have limitations. The separation of the laboratory from other content delivery can limit its ability to help students integrate all aspects of process control. Laboratory setups are usually hard piped and do not allow students to experience putting the control system together. Simulations can be very effective for understanding the nature of process dynamics but lack an equipment dimension.

In response to these issues modular kits for conducting process control experiments in either lab or classroom have been designed. A control course was developed that integrated the use of these experimental kits, simulations, problem solving exercises and instructor content delivery. In this setting any of the above modes of instruction can be used as appropriate to the progress of the course.

Over the last several years the experiment kits have been developed, constructed, tested and refined. These kits require only a computer, a power outlet and a bucket of water (and sometimes some paper towels) in order to be used. They are modular kits using a LEGO® RCX brick as the interface to the computer, LEGO bricks for structural components, both Lego and custom sensors, and modular pipes and tanks where students can actually assemble the process and the controls system. These kits are capable of multiple experiments from simple dynamics of a sensor through cascade and multi-variable control. They can also be used for student projects.

Multiple assessments have been used to evaluate and refine the modular kits and the multimodal approach of this class. These assessments include observations by different instructors, anonymous student surveys, student focus groups, and observed student problem solving sessions. Overall the kits and the integrated approach have had a positive effect on the class. Students and instructors have both enjoyed using the modular kits. Student groups of three to five have been used with students happier with the smaller groups. For the larger groups, students have suggested a planned rotation of formal roles to insure everyone in the group is involved. Students like the integration of kits and simulation into the classroom setting and have shown a particular preference for class sessions where a short activity is used to raise an issue and then followed up with detailed content on the issue. The modular kits have integrated easily with the other modes of instruction.

Moor, S. S., & Piergiovanni, P. (2007, June), Multi Modal Process Control Education: Experiment Kits & Simulation In The Classroom Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2471

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