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This paper discusses the usefulness of employing LEGO as a teaching-learning aid in a post-graduate-level first course on the control of discrete-event systems (DESs). The final assignment of the course is presented, which asks students to design and implement a modular hierarchical discrete-event supervisor for the coordination layer of a complete automated manufacturing system (AMS) built using LEGO blocks. A design approach frequently used in manufacturing is introduced to unify design criteria and nomenclature. Software tools are provided for all calculation and translation tasks required for the implementation of the supervisor architecture in a programmable logic controller (PLC). The assignment reinforces all the basic concepts of supervisory control theory taught during the course. It provides hands-on experience of the advantages and disadvantages and of the important theoretical and practical issues related to the use of DES controllers in an engineering application.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2012