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Real Or Simulation: Experiences Using Computer Simulation Versus Remote Operation For Process Control

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1040.1 - 9.1040.12



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Paper Authors

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Richard Zollars

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Paper 2004-1243

Real or Simulation: Experiences Using Computer Simulation versus Remote Operation for Process Control

Jim Henry Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chattanooga, TN 37403-2598

Richard Zollars Department of Chemical Engineering Washington State University Pullman, WA 99164-2710


This paper has a comparison of student reactions to having laboratory experiments conducted with simulation software and being conducted remotely through the Web. The students in a process controls course in two successive years were exposed to both simulation and remote experiments at different times during the course. We surveyed the students at the end of the course about aspects of the two methods of conducting experiments. These surveys are one of the “outcomes” of the course and are tabulated here. This paper discusses student attitudes towards the use of these two techniques as well as some changes that can be instituted to capture the best learning features of the two methods.


Providing hands-on, or learn-by-doing, experiences for engineering students is often complicated by either a lack of equipment, technician support or both. Yet most topics in chemical engineering are best learned via a learn-by-doing approach. Computer simulations have been used in lieu of a truly hands-on experience but these are often lacking in the fullness of details that real systems provide. With the advent of high-speed Internet communications an alternative approach to providing hands-on experiences has become possible – remote operation of real equipment. Such remote operation experiences are fully learn-by-doing with nearly all the positive and negative aspects of true hands-on laboratory work.

For the past two years the process control class at Washington State University was taught using both of these approaches. Computer simulations for process identification and control were provided using Control Station® ( Remote operation of actual equipment for the same purposes was provided via an Internet connection to the Resource Center for Engineering Laboratories on the Web

Zollars, R. (2004, June), Real Or Simulation: Experiences Using Computer Simulation Versus Remote Operation For Process Control Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12867

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