Professor builds PLC trainer stations for three locations

To provide students with better access to engineering technology processes, John Piller built 15 programmable logic controller (PLC) trainer stations for use at three College of Technology locations.

With the help of two students, Piller, clinical associate professor in electrical engineering technology at Purdue’s College of Technology in South Bend, built the PLC stations and installed them in labs in South Bend, Kokomo and New Albany.

The trainer stations will be used in industrial controls and other classes that are part of the majors offered by the School of Engineering Technology: electrical engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, and engineering technology.

“The goal is to have matching equipment at as many locations as possible so that lab and lectures can be shared across the different College of Technology locations,” Piller explained

Piller called on his extensive experience with machine controls and electrical construction to create the stations that will impact students across the state. He also gave the student workers – Tim Frye and Spenser South -- plenty of experience in the build and design phase.

“I left them to manage their own time and build. After they built the stations, they programmed and tested each device to confirm that they were ready for class,” he said. “Finally, they assisted in designing the course material and tested it out.”

PLC stations are lab bench hardware designed for students to be able to work on real-world industrial equipment. Students are now be able to build up their programming skills in a controlled environment. They won’t need access to larger machines that could possibly cause damage.
Microprocessor boards such as Arduino, for example, can do that as well, Piller said, but the PLC stations are actually devices found in manufacturing lines and can be programmed as such.

Students who use the stations will be able to include the PLC programming experience on their resumes.