Engineering Career Study Student Blog Entry – Week Four
By Neal Collier, July 5, 2011
A local High School District uses a Career Study Program (Job Shadowing) Program designed to assist students with career planning before graduation. Two of the High School Seniors asked to learn about the exciting world of Automation Integration and a short program was put together where each student will program and document a working Traffic light. The traffic light will be controlled by a ControlLogix PLC (Emulate Mode) with Wonderware InTouch as the Graphical User Interface (GUI).
Stage 1 – East-West Traffic Light
Stage 2 – East-West *AND* North-South Traffic
Stage 3 - East-West, North-South, *AND* Crosswalk
Stage 4 - East-West, North-South, Crosswalk, *AND* Evening (Blink) Mode
Over the course of the Career Study, the students are provided with an introduction to the PLC and GUI (setup, operation, elements, programming), as well as programming enhancements, standards, drawings, and – everyone’s favorite – documentation.
We have asked the High School Students in the Career Study Program to write a Blog entry at the end of each week. Here are their entries for their last week:
In our final week working at Avanceon we had already completed the entire project, so we finished our documentation and created a PowerPoint presentation to give to an audience of other Avanceon employees. Our presentations went over what we had completed over the three and a half weeks we had been working there. We talked about our learning experiences and what we will take from those experiences forward in our lives. This concluded our time at Avanceon, it was very fun and a great learning experience for us.
- Kyle Yeagley
My time at Avanceon has been a learning experience. The few weeks that I have been with the company have introduced me to what an engineer might work on every day. I have also been taught how to use programs that are used by engineers in the workforce to design and run real life machines and systems. While Career Study may not have been the most exciting time, I feel that I can take my experience at Avanceon and reapply it at college. Having been introduced to the different programs, writing Technical Documents, and changing design specifications gives me an advantage over others pursuing similar degrees, as few students are able to experience what engineering is like before they go to college.
- Daniel Marsh
It was fun to have the students at Avanceon. My original vision was to have the students jump right in to programming the PLC, followed by the HMI, with documentation last. Here is a brief re-cap of the program:
PLC programming – By the close of the first day, “The Lads” had used RSLogix Emulate to create a PLC, download a program, and start to create ladder logic. Armed with how to create tags and how to use few ladder logic elements, they were on their way!
When I first put the Career Study program together with Stage 1, 2, 3, and 4, Frank (one of my co-workers) asked me if I was going to explain to the students about creating code such that modifications can be done with minimal headache. I laughed and said that from Stage 1 to Stage 2, they should learn that lesson on their own! By Thursday of that first week, they had figured out their program and had it humming along! Very nice!
The last day of that first week, I asked them what they thought of being a systems integrator. One shrugged as if to say “Eh, not bad” and the other made a face. “Is there something wrong?” I asked. “Well”, was the answer, “this job would be awesome if you didn’t keep changing what you want the program to do!” <ROTFL>
SCADA – Once The Lads figured out how to make screen objects talk to their PLC code, they had a blast. One helpful co-worker showed them some interesting things in Symbol Factory and so we had things like animated hamburgers crossing the street when the crosswalk was active (thanks, Jen!). Both students had fun creating Popups and maintenance screens (“are you SURE you want to stop the program?”).
Documentation – Readers of this Blog who are in the Systems Integration business know that typically documentation is the first order of business – not the last. This was intentional in that I wanted them to get right at the programming first and not be bogged down by the documentation ‘grind’. It did work successfully in that the importance of the documentation was made very clear after having created their traffic lights with no design documentation to go by. The last week they printed out and collated all their files and created a PowerPoint presentation for Avanceon Engineers (those not at Client sites) over some pizza.
All-in-all a great time. I would be very interested to hear from other industry professionals if they have done similar programs or if they have any suggestions or enhancements.