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Lafayette chemical engineering professors S. Scott Moor and Polly R. Piergiovanni have received a $74,326 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop innovative, flexible laboratory kits that will benefit students learning process-control synthesis.

Undergraduate instruction in process control typically focuses on abstract analysis and does not prepare students for synthesizing process-control strategies and designs, a function that is very important in industry, say Moor and Piergiovanni.

They plan to bridge this gap between academics and industry by developing and incorporating into the curriculum inexpensive, flexible lab kits that will allow students to design, implement, and test their own control systems.

Students will use the kits to construct the physical process with quick-release fittings and build the control system in software. They will decide on placement of sensors and control elements, as well as the type of control strategy.

“With these kits, students will conduct several flow, level, and temperature experiments, which illustrate concepts from simple draining-tank dynamics through the implementation of advanced multi-loop control systems,” the professors say.

Designed with a high level of safety, the kits require only electrical power and water, making them available for use in laboratories, classroom demonstrations and exercises, independent activities, distance learning, and educational outreach to high-school students. They could be adapted in the future for experiments in a variety of engineering courses, such as introductory classes and those covering material and energy balances, unit operations, and reactor design.

Moor and Piergiovanni will use an existing computer interface and parts they will build themselves. Additional testing will be conducted at two other institutions.

Piergiovanni, an associate professor, joined the Lafayette faculty in 1990. In addition to process control, her teaching areas include material and energy balances, unit operations, and biochemical engineering. Her research interests include biochemical processes and system dynamics and control. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Houston and B.A. from Kansas State University.

Moor, an assistant professor, has been at Lafayette since 1995. His teaching areas include kinetics and reactor design, laboratory applications, and statistics. Among his research interests are process and unit operation development for emerging industries, visualization techniques, applied design, and analysis of experiments. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and B.S. and M.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Categorized in: Academic News