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Using a PLC+Flowchart Programming to Engage STEM Interest

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Student Recruitment and Retention in ET Programs and Labs in ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Alka R Harriger Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Alka Harriger joined the faculty of the Computer and Information Technology Department (CIT) in 1982 and is currently a Professor of CIT. For the majority of that time, she has been actively involved in teaching software development courses. From 2008-2014, she led the NSF-ITEST funded SPIRIT (Surprising Possibilities Imagined and Realized through Information Technology) project. Since October 2013, she has been co-leading with Prof. Brad Harriger the NSF-ITEST funded TECHFIT (Teaching Engineering Concepts to Harness Future Innovators and Technologists) project. Professor Harriger's current interests include application development, outreach to K-12 to interest more students to pursue computing careers, applying IT skills to innovating fitness tools, and wearable computing.

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Bradley C. Harriger Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Brad Harriger has over 30 years of experience teaching automated manufacturing and has authored/co-authored several related articles. Professor Harriger has served in several leadership roles with Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education, and is a founding member of an international Aerospace Automation Consortium, serving on its steering committee for several years. He has invested over twenty-five years in the development and maintenance of a multimillion dollar manufacturing laboratory facility complete with a full scale, fully integrated manufacturing system. Professor Harriger has been a Co-PI on two NSF funded grants focused on aerospace manufacturing education and is currently a Co-PI on the NSF funded TECHFIT project, a middle school afterschool program that teaches students how to use programmable controllers and other technologies to design exercise games. Additionally, he co-organizes multiple regional automation competitions for an international controls company.

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Attracting students to STEM remains an important goal in today’s society. The first step involves educating students about opportunities and possibilities afforded to STEM graduates. Educational institutions that offer prospective students opportunities for interactive experiences that are enjoyable, memorable, and impactful can yield positive results.

One activity that has been used successfully by the authors involves teaching flowchart programming of a Phoenix Contact’s nanoLine controller. The students ranged from middle school to college as well as middle school teachers. The activities ranged from a one-hour demonstration, to a half-day interactive, instructional session, to a month-long or semester-long, immersive experience. Projects included developing a simple fitness game to innovating a self-contained, commercial-quality, automated system.

The paper and presentation will provide details about each of these varied approaches and share pluses and minuses of each. Information about how others can make use of this technology at no cost will also be shared.

Harriger, A. R., & Harriger, B. C. (2016, June), Using a PLC+Flowchart Programming to Engage STEM Interest Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27124

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