Automation to the Students

Dec. 2, 2011
ABB provides technical college with programmable logic controllers and motor drives for use in an automation lab to help students better understand industrial technology.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “power to the people” made famous in the John Lennon song from 1971. Now ABB is bringing “automation to the students” through its work with the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). The company has installed 15 new motor drives and PLCs (programmable logic controllers) in the Industrial Automation Laboratory at MATC.

MATC offers associate degree and technical diploma programs for students pursuing positions in a technical discipline.
For more than a decade now, the offshoring of manufacturing has been a major issue in North America. Now that some of that manufacturing is coming back and new types of manufacturing are starting up here, more and more companies are finding it difficult to locate skilled labor. ABB’s provision of various automation technologies to schools is aimed at helping elevate the practical, hands-on skills of the next wave of technicians looking for work in the production industries.
The MATC Industrial Automation lab, located in the school’s Technology Building in downtown Milwaukee, has undergone extensive renovation and refurbishment in recent months. The lab will provide students in the electronic engineering technology program with live industrial automation control experience. With 15 workstations addressing factory-floor level control and data acquisition, the lab will be wired and commissioned by students as part of their second-year automation courses. 
“The donation [by ABB] helps our students work on interfacing motors, variable frequency drives (VFDs) and PLCs, using both discrete and digital interfacing methods,” says Tom Heraly, automation electronics instructor at MATC. “Our students have always interfaced VFDs and PLCs using discrete wire methods, but the automation market now requires our students to be able to interface using digital communications methods such as Ethernet/IP and Modbus/TCP.” 
Beyond MATC’s automation lab, additional PLCs and motor controls will be used as part of the college’s Joint Apprenticeship program, which is focused on updating workers’ skills to match today’s workforce requirements. These automation devices will provide continuing education opportunities for current students or those entering re-training programs. 
MATC, founded in 1912, educates approximately 50,000 students per year at its four campuses, community-based sites and online. The college offers 200 academic programs; nearly 400 transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees; and a Pre-College Education division that assists people in completing high school, preparing for college or entering the workforce. 

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