Very remote control: Technology education at a distance

January 17 2006

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Students in St. Petersburg, Russia, have gained access to automated systems in Indiana and are controlling them via the Internet.

This isn't a breach of national security, it's what W. Tad Foster, dean of the College of Technology at Indiana State University, calls "distance education on steroids."

Foster says College of Technology faculty are experimenting with just how far they can go with teaching electronics and manufacturing automation at a distance.

"A graduate student here designed the "wet PLC" system we use to allow this equipment to be controlled from anywhere in the world," Foster said. "We currently have students from St. Petersburg, Russia, completing coursework that requires actually running equipment, and they don't have to be here to do it."

Teaching automation from a distance is just one of the capabilities of the recently formed Center for Automation and Systems Integration, or CASI, which is housed in Indiana State's College of Technology.

"CASI serves as a resource for business, industry and academia," Foster said, "and brings together academic and industry professionals to advance the field of automation and systems integration."

CASI follows on the heels of ISU's highly successful Indiana Packaging Research and Development Center formed in 2004 at the College of Technology, which is currently providing expertise for about 50 businesses, Foster says.

On the state level, automation and systems integration faculty from ISU are collaborating with a local high school and Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley, to provide hands-on learning opportunities for their students, similar to what the Russians are experiencing. "It is interesting to watch students from all three institutions working on common coursework," Foster said.

"Ohio University also is interested in this concept," Foster says.

A 2003 Ph.D. graduate of ISU's College of Technology, Kevin Berisso is now the executive director of the Center for Automatic Identification at Ohio University, and is working with CASI to form a partnership in support of research, academic and outreach programs.

Inquiries about CASI can be made to Gerald Cockrell, Ed.D., CASI Director, at (812) 237-3394; or W. Tad Foster, Ed.D., at (812) 237-3166. -30- Contact: Gerald Cockrell, Ed.D., CASI Director, (812) 237-3394 Writer: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or ISU Communications and Marketing: (812) 237-3773 or

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Story Highlights

Students in St. Petersburg, Russia, have gained access to automated systems in Indiana and are controlling them via the Internet.

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