Oakland University’s ISE department hosts Siemens PLC workshop

By Stephanie Sokol, Communications Assistant and Amanda Beaton, Siemens Cooperates with Education for OUSECS

Photo/ Robert Van Til
Photo/ Robert Van Til

A Siemens PLC workshop for high school, community college and university instructors was hosted at OU by the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department. 

Part of the “Summer with Siemens” series, the workshop drew 11 teachers and professors from Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to learn the basics of creating assignments and projects using Siemens Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). 

The company holds at least 12 educator workshops around the country every summer lasting 3-5 days each. In addition to exploring Siemens hardware and software, the summer workshops primarily used specially built trainer workstations from Amatrol, Inc. The company creates innovative learning solutions with custom curriculum and online teaching resources available to education on topics from advanced manufacturing to geothermal systems.  The Siemens Cooperates with Education partners with didactic companies like Amatrol to offer global leading automation technologies to schools.  Through deep product discounts, tuition-waived training to instructors and free curriculum and teaching materials, Siemens partner schools offer students practical industry skills knowledge with comprehensive support. When industry, schools and suppliers work together it can be a powerful force.

“We want to encourage students to get to know Siemens and what the products are and just encourage technical skills at the high school, university and vocational level,” said Amanda Beaton, Siemens program promoter. “We see a lot of people graduating that haven’t gotten the chance to practice applied skills with PLCs programming, some of the core tech heavily used in manufacturing. We try to make it readily accessible to students and teachers — and make it cost effective and approachable so they can come to workshops, get hands-on practice and have access to our educator resources.”

The workshops help educators learn how to program and some tips on teaching PLCs, providing them with a starter kit of hardware and software for practice, curriculum development and teaching. 

University engineering programs often do not teach students about them. However, this winter, OU will be offering a new course on PLCs, because they are a crucial part of advanced manufacturing systems.

According to Robert Van Til, chair and Pawley Professor of Lean Studies in the ISE department, having access to state of the art PLCs is beneficial to OU’s engineering students. Siemens’ devices are becoming standard across the industry.

“We teach our students what a PLC is and how to use it to control manufacturing systems— it often comes up in job interviews where students are asked if they are familiar with PLCs,” said Van Til. 

“Most engineering students are not expected to be PLC experts , but most companies want them to know what a PLC is and how it works. For some reason I don’t fully understand,  PLC courses are not common in many engineering programs. Companies often have to send their newly-hired engineers to special PLC training courses.” 

 The ISE department’s relationship with Siemens in PLCs started about six months ago, but the department has had a long, on-going relationship with Siemens in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Van Til, worked with Robert Neff, OU alum and Siemens Account Manager, to get the PLC equipment.  

“We are excited that OU has decided to include PLC programming in their engineering curriculum,” Neff said. “Our customers frequently ask us which schools are graduating students that have learned Siemens PLC software. This new course offering helps build the local Siemens community, and supports filling the demand for PLC programmers.”  

With both the large amount of engineering opportunities in Oakland County, and OU’s  reputation in engineering, Beaton said the school was a good place to host the workshop.

“The workshop went well,” said Beaton. “Bob Van Til was really involved in helping set up and helping us with logistics, and Matt Bruer was helpful with getting our equipment in there and making sure everything was accounted for. The school was very helpful and accommodating.  Sometimes schools aren’t; sometimes it’s confusing for schools, but at Oakland it was nice.”

For more information on the ISE department as well as its programs in ISE and in Engineering Management, visit oakland.edu/secs/ise

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