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Advances in the past decade in the development and application of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Automation Systems in both high technology industrial plants and in the more mainstream manufacturing sectors, has heightened the importance of ensuring that undergraduate degree programme syllabi are designed to adequately cater for the teaching and training of students in automation. Prior to this growth in automation, delivered syllabi in Control Systems on most Electrical Engineering programmes had a theoretical rigour, reflecting the mathematical nature of the topic. A major challenge currently facing departmental lecturing staff and programme coordinators is that of the design of balanced programmes in Control and Automation Systems, to adequately reflect the importance of both streams. Owing to the applied nature of automation systems, a move towards a more Problem Based Learning teaching methodology in delivery of modules would seem the preferable way forward. At the same time, design of a balanced programme will require inclusion of sufficiently in-depth modules in classical control and process control, in order that graduates are provided with a good theoretical grounding in the subject, allied to practical hands-on experience in laboratory and project work. In summary, academic staff have the responsibility of providing the educational basis necessary to equip students with the skills required to cater for the needs of industry, while also providing a research arm for students who may wish to advance by way of postgraduate study to higher degrees.
Coyle, Eugene and O'Dwyer, Aidan : Maintaining a balance at undergraduate degree level in the teaching of automation and classical control systems. Measurement and Control, Vol. 38/2, March, pp. 46-50.