Remote tools: Undergraduate labs, under control

Article by Amanda Doyle

RAL was initially developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Joanne Tanner speaks to Amanda Doyle about lockdown labs and their future

THE Covid-19 pandemic has introduced numerous challenges in all aspects of life, including how to rapidly transition from in-person university teaching to online classes and demonstrations. However, it has also offered some opportunities, particularly in terms of accelerating digitalisation. I spoke to Joanne Tanner, Lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Monash University, Australia, about an initiative that she led to create a remote access lab (RAL) for undergraduates.

“We developed the lab in response to Covid in the immediate situation,” said Tanner. “However, it does address a more broad need that we saw for our students to have opportunities that represent how they will interact with the process via the control system in industry.

“Chemical engineers are not often field operators; that’s someone who would go out on the plant and physically turn valves and operate manual equipment. Chemical engineers are usually designing the process, operating or monitoring the process remotely, or optimising and troubleshooting online or offline. They use data from the process but they don’t often run the process themselves. So that’s the kind of practical experience we are trying to give our students.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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