(238f) Process Controls Final Projects Inspired By Real Unit Operations Laboratory Modules

Pfluger, C. A., Northeastern University
Landherr, L. J., Northeastern University
Northeastern University specializes in opportunities for experiential learning, both through a co-op program as well as through direct coursework. The style of experiential and inquiry-based learning have been particularly reinforced through two intermediate-level Unit Operations courses, in which students have been tasked with developing experiments, selecting measurement parameters, and designing analysis. Studentsâ?? previous experiences have been utilized in the development of final projects for their Process Controls course.

In order to provide a culmination of the entire Process Controls course and to challenge students to design a complete controls system relying on some combination of feedback, feedforward, and/or cascade control, a final project was designed to connect the concept of Controls to a real-world system. Student teams were given the option of selecting from six different modules they had observed and analyzed in a previous laboratory course, including distillation, liquid-liquid extraction, heat exchangers, reverse osmosis, and water remediation. These modules had required complete manual control, and had a range of parameters that could be adjusted during operation. For their final project, students were challenged to design a complete control system that required them to select control variables, handle multiple disturbances, and operate within acceptable limits. Students derived overall balances, designed block diagrams, calculated tuning parameters both by hand and through simulation software, and analyzed their proposed control system for stability and economic viability.

The project culminated in both a technical written report and a presentation. Across three semesters and multiple sections, every team has designed a different system resulting in different quality of control. Requiring the students to defend their design decisions and forcing them to account for a range of disturbances has helped students develop a much more complete grasp of Process Controls and given them greater confidence exiting the course.

This presentation will provide examples of the modules and assessment of the project to date.