(23g) Industrial Collaboration For Improving Undergraduate Hands-On Process Control Education
Several nationwide studies on the state of process control education in the Chemical Engineering curricula have pointed out to a growing gap between what students learn as undergraduates and the needs of industry. Process control experts from both industry and academia agree that a problem exists, and that one way to narrow the gap is a closer liaison between engineering programs and industry. Control education is not the sole responsibility of academia. Professional control engineers must be involved in the control education process as well, particularly when one considers that many of the students will work in industry, often as control engineers. Industry has a vested interest in seeing students who are well-educated in the latest control instrumentation and techniques, since that is its recruiting pool. At the same time industry has a wealth of problems which make for interesting and challenging laboratory experiments, and it has the financial resources to help in providing modern laboratory facilities. This presentation describes a successful collaboration between the Department of Chemical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Eli Lilly and Company, the result of which is a much improved undergraduate process control experience for the students. Its major achievement is that all chemical engineering students are exposed to industrial-grade process instrumentation, control system architecture, and control and tuning algorithms beyond PID and Ziegler-Nichols. Another achievement is that students are introduced to the industrial practices of data storage, management, retrieval and mining. The backbone of the new process control experience in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is an industrial distributed control system (DCS), namely DeltaV by Emerson, which is incorporated in the undergraduate Unit Operations (UO) laboratory. The new environment in the UO laboratory is very similar to the environment in a typical chemical, petrochemical or pharmaceutical plant. Students learn how to maintain their process under control, take the process safely from one operating condition to another, collect and analyze data using a historian, respond to process alarms and remotely troubleshoot their experiments using limited process information. In addition to financial support, the industrial partner helped with expert advice in the design of new and the revamping of the existing laboratory experiments. It also provided sabbatical opportunities for the faculty involved in process control education. The experience of both parties in this project, namely industry and academia, has been very positive, and we hope that this can provide a model for other academia-industry partnerships for enhancing process control education in the undergraduate curriculum.