Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Engineering students learn shop floor reality with Schneider Electric equipment

July 6, 2009
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

How do you prepare electrical engineering students to work with automation and electrical systems in the real world of demanding commercial and industrial environments?

Give them a lab equipped with leading-edge Schneider Electric automation and electrical equipment, staffed by professors at École Polytechnique Montreal.

This industry-education link is facilitated by an alliance between the Fondation de Polytechnique, the Quebec Electrical Industry Association (Association de l’industrie électrique du Québec, or AIEQ), and the Institute of Electrical Power Engineering (IEPE), and industry players such as Schneider Electric.

Mandated to develop a high-quality training program of electrical power engineers to respond to the needs of the electrical power industry, the IEPE encourages Quebec universities to pool teaching and research resources in electrical power engineering. Every year, 50 promising students from Quebec universities study electrical engineering at the École Polytechnique.


“The long term benefits of this program will help accelerate the transition of Quebec to a knowledge-based economy, and translate concern for developing clean and renewable energy into actionable projects,” asserts Jean-François Samray, AIEQ president and GM.

Hoang Le-Huy, P. Eng., Dr. Eng., executive director of the Institute of Electrical Power Engineering, sees industry participation as key to the program’s success. “Industry members of the Fondation Polytechnique – such as Schneider Electric – have the opportunity to help shape the curriculum, give seminars on specific products or design tools, and equip labs with the latest automation and electrical products,” he explains.

Indeed, labs are the only way to show students the all-important link between abstract theory and real-world, shop-floor, operational constraints. “Automation is very exciting. You have to know each of the products, understand how they interact, use communication networks and software. The challenge is to design solutions that are easy to use by the Customers”, explains Michel Crochon, automation executive vice-president of Schneider Electric. “Labs fitted with an automation system supplied by companies such as Schneider Electric offer students the best opportunity to learn how to solve system problems they will encounter on the shop floor.”

Students will now have the opportunity to learn to operate Schneider Electric’s high-performance M340 PLCs linked to a multi-protocol architecture (Modbus, CANopen, Ethernet TCP-IP) connected with an HMI and a SCADA system. The system also includes variable speed drives and power meters to allow remote monitoring/control of the machines.

“These new tools will allow students to work on projects in a technological environment that simulates leading-edge industrial facilities”, says École Polytechnique CEO Christophe Guy.

The result? IEPE and other École Polytechnique graduates garner a reputation for quickly learning how to successfully execute the on-the-job requirements of their new employers.

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