This program is designed to accomplish four things:
- Teach students the fundamentals of instrumentation, data acquisition, instrument controls and automation across a wide variety of sectors and industries to support scientific, industrial, technological and commercial applications.
- Teach students the hardware and software applications that support many commercial offerings in the market today.
- Provide students the tools to objectively evaluate their instrumentation and data acquisition needs with a view to developing in-house solutions to meet those needs.
- Give students the practical skills—and tactile experience—of developing and programming robust and industrial-grade data acquisition, control and instrumentation algorithms using commonly available software.
The course will be based on the use of (the ubiquitous) Microsoft EXCEL® as the primary platform for data acquisition and control instead of the highly proprietary and expensive software platforms offered by many commercial vendors.
There is a concerted push at all levels of government to expand manufacturing and technological deployment. Most industrial, manufacturing or even consumer technologies rely on some type of instrumentation and/or automation to reduce labor cost, ensure quality, and enhance productivity. The critical underpinning of every automation effort is a data acquisition system — the composite of physical and logical components that monitor and alter the operating state of a process to achieve some desired objectives.
Instrumentation and control provide the gateway to robotic applications across a variety of fields. These applications can be very expensive because of the use of proprietary technologies by many commercial vendors, and the [understandable] need to lock customers into long-term service agreements that continue to generate revenue for the hardware/software vendors.
In this course, students will learn how to develop and deploy data acquisition, instrumentation, automation and control systems using no more than an EXCEL® spreadsheet. The goal of this course is to make instrumentation and automation as affordable and as accessible as possible, especially for small organizatons with limited budgets. In addition to covering new control/automation projects, the course will also teach students how to develop control and automation applications to retrofit existing (or even outdated) equipment, thereby resulting in significant savings for their businesses.
The goal of this course is for students to be able to use currently available software (e.g. an EXCEL® spreadsheet) and off-the-shelf barebones hardware (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.) to develop very elegant and complex real-world mechatronic, robotic and automation applications with minimal effort and at very low cost. Enterprising students could develop “packaged solutions” that would be of interest to companies, organizations and individuals that need help with specific control and/or automation problems. The course assumes NO prior knowledge of instrumentation or automation but assumes some basic familiarity with the use of spreadsheets.
Students will be expected to have working computer systems with appropriate internet access so as to fully participate in the training exercises. Upon registration, students will be shipped a course kit which will include a variety of electronic, mechanical and mechatronic components. That kit will be used for the practicum and training exercises in the course. Any software not included in the study kit would be normally available commercially or as open-source software.
The modules offered in this program are as follows:
Module 0: Introduction To Mechatronics, Robotics, Automation & Control
This is a foundational module that introduces students to the field of mechatronics by providing ample - and ubiquitous - examples of mechatronics in everyday life. This introductory module will also explore self-driving cars, remote-piloted drones, remote-controlled (toy) cars, robotic vacuum cleaners and a host of evolving developments in the broader society that are highly dependent on mechatronics. The ever-expanding role of robotics in industrial, medical and environmental applications is also introduced, against a backdrop of the automation and control systems that make such applications possible. There will also be discussion of the various kinds of sensors that form the underpinnings of these systems.
Module I: Introduction To Data Acquisition
This module is designed to get the participants familiar with the concept of data and data acquisition. The goal is for students to gain an appreciation for how data can be acquired, evaluated and converted into “actionable information” about the operating state of a process or operation. It gives a broad overview of different approaches to data acquisition and provides hands-on practical examples of data acquisition in action. Specific examples and practical issues relating to data acquisition shall be addressed.
The module will also introduce the most common programming languages and platforms that have traditionally been used for data acquisition. The discussion will explore the underlying benefits—and limitations—of various languages and platforms that have gained dominance in various industries and application domains.
Participants are expected to contribute ideas and personal experiences (from everyday life) as it relates to data acquisition. At the end of this module, students should be able to identify opportunities for, and instances of, data acquisition in everyday life.
Module II: Introduction To Process Control
In this module, we introduce the basics of process control, and we guide participants toward an appreciation of the essential attributes of a process control operation. The module also introduces the most common types of controllers (from simple proportional to more complex PID controllers) and how their applications vary in real-life.
The goal is for students to understand the basic concepts that underpin the design of a process control system. A particular focus will be on identifying process controllers that are used in industrial systems and how those could be improved or modified to meet evolving everyday needs.
Module III: Introduction To Automation
Here we introduce the basics of automation with aim of providing a framework for understanding how automation works, and the distinct role of analog and digital devices in an automation project. Various types of A-D and D-A interfaces shall be introduced in this module, at the end of which students should be able to identify the basic elements needed to achieve a given automation outcome.
The module shall also address the various degrees of autonomy inherent in an automation project, with a guided discussion of the cost-benefit tradeoffs that have to be made in virtually any automation project.
Module IV: Introductory Practicum: Wiring, Connecting & Powering - Basic Mechatronics
Most people have never had the opportunity to “go under the hood” to understand how electrical technology, mechanical systems, and computer systems tie together to create real-world outcomes. Mechatronics is the formal name for the field that incorporates all these disparate fields into one cohesive discipline that makes many things we rely on in everyday life. In this module, students will be formally - and practically - introduced to mechatronics and its ever-expanding array of field of application.
Every student will be guided to build their first hands-on mechatronic application using the items in the course kit shipped to students upon registration for the course. Students will be able to build an application and appreciate how a concept can be translated from a starting idea to a working mechatronic device in their homes. As part of this module, students will learn simple wiring techniques using breadboards and other commonly available components.
Module V: Microsoft Excel: Much More Than Meets The Eye (Literally)
The course assumes that students have some familiarity with, but not mastery of, EXCEL®. This module will provide students with a grounder in many of the features of Excel and how those features can be used for a variety of applications beyond the typical tabulations and computations than most people are familiar with. Even those who have good facility with Excel® could benefit from this refresher which will introduce the use of Excel® as a control and automation platform.
Module VI: Introduction to DAQ2GO®
DAQ2GO® is a data acquisition and automation application developed by Dr. Scot Abbott using Microsoft Excel® as the programming platform. In this core module, students will be introduction to DAQ2GO® and will work through practical examples of how the application works. Students will be expected to develop “mini-applications” as part of this introductory module.
Module VII: Practicum: Instrumentation & Applications Development For Process Automation
Here students will explore instances and applications of automation and control specifically for process automation. The focus of the practicum will be on “learning by doing”. Practical examples of real-life applications will be explored and discussed so that students gain first-hand experience with applications for process automation. Each student will be required to complete a mini-project as part of this practicum.
Module VIII: Practicum: Instrumentation & Applications Development For Industrial Process Control
In this module, students will explore instances and applications of automation and control specifically for process control. The focus of the practicum will be on learning by doing. Practical examples of real-life applications will be explored and dissected so that students gain first-hand experience with applications for process control. Each student will be required to complete a mini-project as part of this practicum.
Module IX: Practicum: Instrumentation & Applications Development For Robotics
In this practicum, students will explore applications for robotics. Practical examples of real-life applications will be explored and dissected so that students gain first-hand experience with applications for robotics. Each student will be required to complete a mini-project as part of this practicum.
Module X: Capstone Project
This is the culmination of the learning experience. Prior to this, students would have identified and selected projects (or project areas) that would be of the most interest and benefit beyond the training experience. The capstone project will require students to develop an actual application that would be presented and shared with the cohort. This project will be the final deliverable in the training experience.
Classes are held weekly in LIVE, interactive online sessions led by highly experienced practitioners and trainers. Classes are typically scheduled for evenings and weekends to accommodate working professionals. Students are assigned to cohorts based on a balance between availability in a given cohort and indicated preference of students during the application process.
- The program runs for 6 months.
- Training cohorts typically start the first (working) Monday of every quarter (January, April, July and October).
- Registration for new cohorts closes 1 month in advance of the start date. (For instance, students who want to participate in a program starting in January need to be registered by the end of November.) This is to ensure proper planning and management of cohort sizes.
- Classes typically meet online twice a week; registered students have access to study and test material on the online platform every day of the week.
- Special classes for organizations, groups or associations may be arranged outside of this standing schedule. (For group schedules, send email to )
The application fee for the program is shown below.
(This includes the course study kit with all the electronic and mechanical components needed for the course. It also includes shipping (to the Continental U.S.)). A small additional charge may apply for shipping of the study kit to students outside of the U.S.
|Tuition (Monthly)||Contact the registrar for specific costs.|