NASA has not requested the plans from PCC electrical students to help them create a new Mars rover, but the building of a terrestrial robot by PCC students in Eric Lalikers’s PLC class, Programmable Logic Controllers, is significant in cosmic proportions. It helps students practice what they have learned from textbooks. PLC’s are used heavily in the manufacturing industry, mainly for automation applications. An Industrial PC controls functions on manufacturing equipment: Robotics, Motor Drives, Conveyor Systems and other applications. A good example of a PLC that consumers use every day is an Alarm Clock/Dishwasher/Microwave. The alliances receive a set of instructions such as how long to cook or when to sound an alarm.
In a manufacturing environment, it is more complex. An example is a conveyor system that performs a product count as it transports a product or a safety system that shuts down heavy machinery when an alarm is triggered.
The PCC robot stops when it encounters an obstacle and goes into reverse.
Lalliker said, “We built our own robot and gave it a set of instructions to perform, such as when an object was detected, it was programmed to reverse and avoid the object. At the same time, it featured a rotating head and displayed multicolor LED’s every 4 seconds. Understanding PLC’s is a highly sought after skill and companies will pay respectable wages for those who are proficient in this process. Men and women have reached high levels of success in this field.”
Some of the students who built the robot commented on the experience.
Thomas McClellan – “I am finishing my associates degree in welding technology and began another associates degree in electrical systems technology. I want to be more marketable and have a plan b, c, d, etc.”Jimmy Scott – These kinds of experience help me get more education that is going to help me find better jobs.”
Freddie Stone – “I learned the fundamentals of computer programming, language, and put that to work in a hands-on experience. The instructor made this a really cool project.”