AutomationDirect opens lab at Northern Illinois University


Sep 30, 2008

AutomationDirect has opened its new AutomationDirect Automation Laboratory on the campus of Northern Illinois University (NIU). As the field of automation constantly changes, educators need to maintain pace with these changes in the classroom to produce well-qualified graduates. Teaching advanced hands-on concepts requires complex laboratories and equipment. AutomationDirect and NIU believe one solution to this complex situation is through innovative industry/education partnerships.

During the past five years, AutomationDirect has provided control products, including PLCs, to NIU’s Department of Technology. AutomationDirect has now cooperated with the department to help fund a well-equipped automation laboratory. In return, the Department named the lab the “AutomationDirect Automation Laboratory” and created the AutomationDirect Professorship. The laboratory is designed to support the Departmental Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) course and the Automation course. The Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) course teaches students basic and advanced concepts and applications for PLC programming. In addition, the students learn to integrate various components with the PLC, such as sensors, switches and output devices.

As a final project, student teams design automation systems which sort parts, using the integration of vision, PLCs, sensors and pneumatics. This level of experimental interaction produces Manufacturing Engineering Technology graduates who excel in industry.

With AutomationDirect’s support, the school will have a very strong laboratory facility in which the next generation of manufacturing engineering technologists will be educated.

The Department of Technology has been the cornerstone of technical education at Northern Illinois University for over 80 years. The department has evolved from vocational education to an organization supporting the needs of industry and the region. A component of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, with approximately 1,500 students, the Technology Department has over 400 students participating in Electrical Engineering Technology (EET), Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MET), and Industrial Management and Technology programs. The department is accredited by the National Association of Industrial Technologists (NAIT) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Their Web site is

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