Asee peer logo

New Life for Process Control Trainers in a Microcontroller Course

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Embedded Control and Instrumentation

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.974.1 - 25.974.18



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Dale H. Litwhiler Pennsylvania State University, Berks

visit author page

Dale H. Litwhiler is an Associate Professor at Penn State, Berks, in Reading, Penn. He received his B.S. from Penn State University, his M.S. from Syracuse University, and his Ph.D. from Lehigh University, all in electrical engineering. Prior to beginning his academic career, he worked with IBM Federal Systems and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems as a Hardware and Software Design Engineer.

visit author page

Download Paper |


New Life for a Process Control Trainer in a Microcontroller CourseAbstractTo improve student enthusiasm and demonstrate the power of embedded control, a controlsystems laboratory process control trainer was adapted and repurposed for use in an introductorymicrocontroller course. While some students are able to extrapolate the ideas conveyed bymaking an LED flash using assembly code, other students need to see their code doingsomething more powerful and realistic. Control system training rigs are common in engineeringand technology laboratories. These setups, from manufacturers such as Feedback®, typicallyhave some type of “plant” that is the controllable center of the system. The parameters of theplant are then measureable via several types of process sensors. To complete the control loop, aprogrammable or otherwise adjustable control unit is provided to be used to demonstrate variousclosed-loop control techniques such as PID control. The system used here was the FeedbackBasic Process Rig model 38-100. This system is comprised of a water process in which the fluidlevel in a tank is regulated by controlling flow into and out of the tank using solenoid and/orservo valves. Tank level and system flow rate sensors are used as inputs to the control unit. Forthe microcontroller course, the manufacturer’s control unit was disconnected from the systemand replaced with a microcontroller trainer board and a simple, custom interface box to make theappropriate interconnections. The students designed their own assembly code to read the systemsensors and control the water level to a user-determined and variable set point. The required codecomponents were developed throughout the semester as each peripheral of the microcontrollerwas discussed. The process control served as a culminating project for the course. This paperpresents the system hardware and example student software. Course curriculum is also presentedand discussed.

Litwhiler, D. H. (2012, June), New Life for Process Control Trainers in a Microcontroller Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21731

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: © 2012 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