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UFV students display knowledge at B.C. Tech Summit

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Two UFV students were asked for resumes while presenting their final project — an automated control system that could be used in an industrial setting — at Western Canada’s largest technology conference.

Cody Shabbits and Markus Tonsaker recently graduated from UFV’s Automation and Robotics Technician course, a two-semester diploma program. They facilitated a booth at the B.C. Tech Summit, May 14–16, where they demonstrated an automated industrial process based on skills they learned in the course.

The Automation and Robotics Technician diploma teaches the building, maintaining, calibration, and integration of automation and control systems.

Shabbits’ and Tonsaker’s presence at the Summit gave UFV a chance to present some of its unique educational offerings, and was a networking opportunity for Shabbits and Tonsaker.

“On our final day at the Tech Summit, Cody and I were both approached by VP and CIO of Teck, Kalev Ruberg,” Tonsaker said. “Mr. Ruberg asked for a resume from Cody and I. I’m expecting hopefully to be contacted about a job offer at Teck.”

Teck is a metals and mining company and is Canada’s largest diversified resources company.

Shabbits’ and Tonsaker’s demonstration is entirely automated to portion a precise amount of liquid from a series of holding tanks into a mixing cup. The mixture’s temperature is specifically regulated and its bubble time (representing carbonation) can be adjusted through inputs from their handheld controller. After the process is complete, a robotic arm picks up the cup, places a cap on it, and puts it onto a tray.

“Simply put, it is a demo of mixing controlled amounts of three different liquids into a larger tank, then heating the mixed liquid to a desired set point of up to 50 degrees Celsius,” Sabbits said.

Their machine represents what can be done through automation. This particular system could be used in a microbrewery or for ingredient mixing in a food plant, but the concept isn’t limited to a specific process and has many different industrial uses including energy and manufacturing.

“We accomplished this task by programming Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) that are widely used in the industry,” Shabbits said. “Along with these was our Human Machine Interface (HMI) which is essentially a touch pad controller for turning on/off anything we wanted in the system. We custom designed all of the layout (graphics, tags, animations, etc.) for this controller.”

Tonsaker said the diploma has taught him how to program robotic arms, work with various PLC brands, work with pneumatics and hydraulics, and many different sensors and actuators, as well as a variety of process control methods.

“Automation and Robotics has taught us a lot about the industry,” Tonsaker said. “We have learned immense amounts of knowledge on pneumatic pistons and controls, PLC programming languages and application, electro-pneumatic actuation of valves and pumps through an HMI, robotic arm skills, troubleshooting, and even knowledge in agriculture equipment.”

In regards to looking toward entering the workforce, Shabbits said he’d like to end up with a job that focuses on installing, repairing, or upgrading manual facilities to automated ones.

“I really like the hands-on aspect of it, while still dealing with the computer programming part as well. It’s a nice combination of electrical and mechanical work,” he said.

Tonsaker said he’d like to start a business related to the skills learned in the course.

“I am considering any job related to what I have learned in school,” Tonsaker said. “This will allow me to be financially ready to start a business.”

Image: The Cascade

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