Industrial Automation: Providing Students with Relevant Problem Solving and Analytic Skills

Industrial Automation: Providing Students with Relevant Problem Solving and Analytic Skills

A. Ryan (2013).  Industrial Automation: Providing Students with Relevant Problem Solving and Analytic Skills. 10.

Groover defines automation as the technology by which a process or procedure is accomplished without human assistance [1]. Automation permeates through all levels of modern manufacturing, from automated vision systems which are employed to check quality, to PLC controlled assembly lines, to pneumatically controlled actuators to hold a workpiece during production, and more. Because of this level of infusion it is paramount that the engineering graduate has the skills required by industry to design, develop and evaluate solutions to industrial automation issues.

Strobel & Barneveld indicate that “Problem Based Learning (PBL) is significantly more effective than traditional instruction to train competent and skilled practitioners and to promote long-term retention of knowledge and skills” [2]. With this in mind how automation material is delivered on an undergraduate programme, has been redesigned using the CDIO philosophy. Traditionally material was delivered using a mix of lecture and instructive practical sessions, while assessment consisted of continual assessment and end of term written examination.

This approach has been changed to reflect a new CDIO PBL approach, students are required to conceive, evaluate, optimise, implement and operate the solution to the prescribed problem. While this move to the CDIO approach is in its infancy this paper outlines the automation concepts in which the students are required to show competency, it documents both qualitative and quantitative feedback from the students involved and outlines a comparison between the previous and new approach in terms of student performance, the comparison indicates an 18.5% improvement in academic performance post switch.

This paper outlines and illustrates how the switch to a CDIO approach with a specific focus on industrial technology e.g. LabVIEW, motors, PLCs etc. encourages student engagement but more importantly helps promote graduate attributes and skills desired and required in their role as engineers in an industrial environment.

Proceedings of the 9th International CDIO Conference, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 9 – 13, 2013.

Authors (New): 
Alan Ryan
University of Limerick, Ireland
Graduate Attributes
Problem solving
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