Newly-renovated automation lab features world-class technology

Drew Francis and Chancellor Dennis J. Shields
Drew Francis, lab assistant, offers demonstrations of the equipment to Chancellor Dennis J. Shields.
Ione Dyer and Chancellor Dennis J. Shields
Ione Dyer, lab assistant, offers demonstrations of the equipment to Chancellor Dennis J. Shields.

Last week, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Industrial Studies hosted an open house to celebrate the newly-renovated electronics and industrial controls systems laboratory. Located in Russell Hall, the lab is one of two automation labs that underwent a $1.5 million renovation to offer students the opportunity to use world-class technology and give them an edge in the workforce.

The lab space serves a range of courses – from basic AC/DC to advanced automation and control. Lab activities include electronic devices exploration, troubleshooting, data acquisition and control with LabVIEW, digital logic, instrumentation, circuit analysis and simulation.

“The $1.5 million renovation of Russell Hall provides the development of two automation laboratories,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture. “The open house featured the electronics and industrial controls systems lab, and soon, in time for the spring semester, we will also be launching the robotics lab. These laboratories provide state-of-the art facilities for students to engage in the hands-on experiential learning opportunities that UW-Platteville and the College of BILSA are known for.”

Students have already experienced the advantages the lab offers, including Drew Francis and Ione Dyer, who participated in the open house and offered tours and demonstrations to the visitors, who included Chancellor Dennis J. Shields and several members of the senior administration.

“Not only do we have the opportunity to work with equipment that is used in real world applications, but we also learn so much from other students and professors through collaboration and group work,” said Francis, who is an industrial technology management major from Skokie, Illinois. “My job as a lab assistant put me in a position to learn more about the components, tools and equipment that is fundamental in industrial and residential technology advancements. The changes in the lab from my freshman year until now are mind blowing. Seeing the improvements the faculty and staff made to the lab is a testament of how UW-Platteville invests in education and cares for its students.”

Dyer agreed, adding that she was able to find value in the process of helping to renovate the lab.

“I think the process of this lab coming together is a learning experience in and of itself,” said Dyer, a technology education major from Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. “As a lab assistant, I learn so much by just setting up and configuring new equipment, playing with components and asking questions. This lab also gives students the opportunity to dive deeper into content areas of their choosing. This tour was a great opportunity for us to show off the new lab, while also thanking those involved in creating this opportunity for us as students.”

The new lab includes analog and digital systems, semiconductor devices, Allen Bradley Rockwell Automation Programmable Logic Controllers with WiFi and Ethernet switches to implement the Industrial Internet of Things, LogixPro PLC programming, National Instruments LabVIEW Data Acquisition and Controllers, Multisim circuit simulation software, Tek Digital Storage Oscilloscopes, Fluke and Mastech Digital Multimeters, ATmega328P - 8-bit AVR Microcontrollers and equipment for Senior Design capstone projects.

The hands-on learning opportunities that students experience in the lab make them highly sought after as they enter the workforce. Employers of graduates from the Industrial Studies program include Chrysler, Rockwell Allen Bradley, Collins Aerospace, Harley Davison, GE Healthcare Systems, GM and more.

"Even though I came in at the end of the project I feel very lucky to have been a small part of finalizing this lab and being able to help with the future robotics lab," said Dr. Christopher Carlson, chair of the Industrial Studies Department. "Labs such as these provide an authentic means to help facilitate learning and provide expertise for students entering the workforce. My thanks go out to Dr G. [Dr. Bandara Gamini, assistant professor] and the students who were able to demonstrate the value of the lab through projects they worked on."

Industry partners have played a crucial role in helping to make many of these opportunities possible. Last year, the Industrial Studies Department received an equipment donation valued at more than $300,000 from Rockwell Automation, Inc.

View a video of the open house at