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The objective of technical courses is the transfer of knowledge and know-how to students. In the case of discrete event system courses, it is important for a learner to locally or remotely control real systems (or plants) that are composed of many sensors and actuators. The use of these devices poses several problems. First, it is difficult to adapt them to the student's level (from beginner to expert). Second, these systems are generally designed with industrial components. An error on the control-command design can involve safety problems and breakdowns. In this paper, the authors propose an original solution to solve these two problems. To guarantee the safety of the operators and the equipment, an approach using a validation filter is proposed. It is based on the definition of logical constraints, which should in no case be violated. To adapt the difficulty level, it is proposed to modify the level of automation. For that, the functional dimension of the automation system is modified to adapt the student's level of autonomy. The level of automation is defined by the teacher by means of a functional analysis of the system. To validate the approach, it is applied to an original project with ten-year-old children on a packaging system. The aim of the project is to enable ldquoyoung novice control engineersrdquo to perform their first programmable logic controller program to control the whole system.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2007