Northern Illinois University partners with AutomationDirect for new student lab
As automation changes, educators need to maintain pace in the classroom to produce well-qualified graduates. To support this effort, Northern Illinois University (NIU) has unveiled the AutomationDirect Automation Laboratory in its Department of Technology. AutomationDirect’s donation of $100,000 over four years also makes it possible to name a term professorship.
NIU’s Department of Technology, which has more than 400 students, evolved from vocational education and is now a component of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET). The new lab will aid student in programs such as electrical engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technology, and industrial management and technology.
AutomationDirect has a working relationship with about 15 schools and continuing education centers, but this is the first time it has a named a lab and created a professorship. The company is also actively involved with education at the primary school level with local robotics team sponsorships and as a kit-of-parts sponsor of the FIRST robotics program.
Today, CEET has almost 1,500 students and 36 labs. The AutomationDirect Laboratory is one of four labs named in 2008, said Promod Vohra, dean of the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, with other newly named industry partners including Harley-Davidson and Baxter. “We want to be engaged in economic development of the region, and create graduates that can fare well in a global environment,” he said.
The laboratory supports departmental courses on programmable logic controllers and automation. Professors teach PLC programming, as well as how to integrate components such as sensors, switches, and output devices with the PLC. As a final project before graduation, student teams are required to design automation systems that sort parts in an application that integrates a vision system, PLCs, sensors, and pneumatics.