Portable Kit for Experiential Learning in Programmable Logic Controller Education (PortablePLC)-
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The project is (1) designing and building a low-cost portable Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) kit with quick-disconnect modules for teaching about basic I/O devices, sensors, and automated systems; (2) creating instructional support materials that apply experiential learning strategies to integrate the PLC kit with lectures, out of class assignments, and lab exercises; (3) developing faculty expertise in integrating the PLC kit into course curricula; (4) evaluating the developed PLC kit and instructional support materials; and (5) disseminating the materials and findings through workshops, web pages, and the institutionalization of the developed materials. The developed kits and experiential learning materials are being evaluated in at least four undergraduate courses at Texas A&M University and in six courses at three universities with a high enrollment of underrepresented minorities, potentially impacting at least 280 students at TAMU and at least 120 students at the other institutions. In addition, the dissemination plan provides for further outreach to two-year colleges, minority serving institutions, and industry. This ensures that students from all backgrounds have an opportunity to learn PLC programming concepts. The project evaluation activities expand the body of knowledge about applications of experiential learning to engineering education. The results of this research advance knowledge in the area of automated manufacturing system integration, benefit the manufacturing industry, system integrators, and consumers and increase US competitiveness in manufacturing.