Delivering the new AQA Level 3 Mechatronics Engineering qualification

We’re always visiting institutions and awarding bodies in to help ensure the delivery of all our solutions is fit for purpose in the UK education market.

Recently, we were given the opportunity to visit AQA to learn more about the new level 3 Mechatronics Engineering Technical award.

Back in 2013 the government requested that examination boards would develop new level 3 technical qualifications for use in schools and colleges to coincide with the need to develop motivating courses for 14 – 19 year olds.

This is an exciting time for technology in the UK: with the apparent decline in Design and Technology as a subject it looks like we will be investing in technology and engineering to meet the demands of industry and motivate more young people to study technical subjects.

With a plethora of already existing educational solutions including mechatronic and electronic kits, simple robotics solutions and other STEM related products; we thought we’d take the time to explain how we can help anyone delivering this (or related) awards with improving the provision of equipment, delivery of stimulating and interesting workshops and improving teaching standards.

Unit 1 – Materials technology and science

Properties of materials

HP5025 Tensile testing kit

Our HP5025 Tensile testing kit (above) is supplied with samples in steel, plastic and aluminium. Industrial versions of this cost upwards of £8,000. HP5025 is only £622.50 and the base unit costs just £115.00 and worksheets are included. This is part of our range of Mechanical Engineering solutions. The base plates are bought separately and the individual kits each need a shared base plate.

Electricity and Electronics

LK9071 Electricity, Magnetism and Materials

Our Locktronics LK9071 (above) is suitable for the majority of this. Retail price of this kit is £210.00. To this you will need to add a few transistors. Budget another £30 per kit.

Transfer of energy

HP5035 Friction and inclined plane kit

We have a few kits suitable for this section of the unit, including:

  • HP5035 Friction and inclined plane kit (above). £451.00
  • HP5045 Drive systems kit. £597.00
  • HP5055 Gear trains kit. £772.00
  • Base plates at £115.00 will also need to be purchased.

Unit 2– Mechanical systems

Types of mechanical systems and their purpose

HP5040 Cam crank and toggle kit.

We have some kits here that can be used too. Note, there is some overlap of these with other sections.

  • HP5060 Simple mechanisms kit. £501.00
  • HP5040 Cam crank and toggle kit (above). £532.00
  • HP5045 Drive systems kit. £597.00
  • HP5055 Gear trains kit. £772.00

Designing a mechanical system

HP5055 Gear trains kit.

  • HP5040 Cam crank and toggle kit. £532.00
  • HP5055 Gear trains kit (above). £772.00
  • Base plates at £115.00 will also need to be purchased.

Unit 7 – Mechatronic control systems

Designing and building a pneumatic control system

This is a unit with some excellent content. The teacher has to first decide what context to deliver this in: whether in an industrial (PLC) context or a microcontroller context. The choice will be influenced by local industrial needs and the preference and likely career path of students. Maybe by the preference of the teacher as well: the learning outcomes are pretty similar.

Standard requirements:

AU9020 Automatics essentials kit

Our AU9020 Automatics essentials kit (above) at £1200.00 per kit allows students to quickly wire up pneumatic circuits using 4mm leads and standard pneumatic lines.

The AW20780 Automatics interactive courseware site licence at £250.00 explains all the principles of Pneumatics and is fully networkable.

The AU9010 Pneumatics control add-on kit (no MIAC controller) at £350.00.

(Note that if you want to use the Matrix MIAC unit then this will be fine. If you would like to use a Siemens Logo! Or other PLC then they could use the HP6785 Automatics PLC adaptor mounting bracket and the appropriate PLC adaptor modules – see below)

Industrial controller pathway:

 

Our Automatics platform with Siemens Logo! PLC.

You can use Siemens S7, Mitsubishi, Logo! Omron and any controller and software to deliver this unit and use the manufacturer’s own software. The Automatics platform has an add-on 50mm rail kit compatible with any PLC (as shown with Siemens Logo! above). This is code HP6785 at £50.00. The 4mm interface modules are as follows:

  • HP6700 Input PLC adaptor module £65.00
  • HP6711 Power PLC adaptor module £65.00
  • HP6723 Motor PLC adaptor module £65.00
  • HP6752 Relay PLC adaptor module £65.00

8

You can also use our own MIAC PLC (pictured above). This is a PLC based on a PIC microcontroller with circuitry for inputs and outputs all contained in a nice plastic box and retails at £275.00. It has 4mm connectors and is really easy to use. What’s more, it’s programmable with Flowcode 6 too. A PIC programming IDE also compatible with those who are Arduino programming.

Microcontroller pathway:

PICmicro microcontroller development centre.

You can use PIC, AVR, Arduino or any number of alternatives here. Our recommendation would be the HP4988 PIC development centre (above) which retails at £150.00. To this you will need to add:

  • EB038 quad Relay board at £33.00
  • EB011 power board at £38.00
  • EB035 Opto isolator board at £27.50

These all bolt to the base plate (marked with circuit connections). Effectively this gives you a PLC. We can also offer this in Arduino for the same price.

Flowcode 6 controlling a two axis stepper motor system above.

If you are going down the microcontroller or MIAC route then Flowcode 6 (shown above controlling a two axis stepper motor system) will provide an interface for mechatronic control using flow charts. The nice thing about Flowcode from a Mechatronics point of view is that students can work on electromechanical systems, and simulate them on screen.

One of the problems with teaching control of mechanical systems is that getting a large variety of physical systems to work in is expensive – simulation of mechanical systems under microcontroller control removes part of that problem. There is great potential synergy here with the unit 4 design element of the course. Flowcode works with PIC and Arduino. Software is free for students to use at home. The same technology is also ideal for Extended Project Qualifications which AQA is very keen to encourage.

Flowcode Schools Edition is £799.00 for a site licence for both PIC and Arduino.

The full version of Flowcode (includes communications capabilities) is £1,749.00 for a site licence (no annual fee).

Designing and building an electronic control system

Sensors and control Locktronics kit

To teach this part of the unit we can supply a number of sensors and actuators in the Locktronics format. We normally supply this with a MIAC controller for teaching industrial control with Flowcode 6, C or LabView (as shown above). We can put together a kit without the controller or base board which will allow students to experiment with writing programs for sensors and actuators to understand their function. We don’t have a specific kit for this but the parts will be around £250.00.

You might also want to buy the LK6906 Operational amplifier add-on pack for £163.00, which will allow students to explore the analogue side of sensors.

Unit 8 – Programming for engineers

The principles of computer programming

Flowcode 6 is perfect for this. Whilst the unit states PLCs, it is no problem if this was to be delivered through the programming of microcontrollers so that unit 7 and 8 can be taught together. Using the Matrix MIAC and Flowcode 6 would satisfy the syllabus very closely.

The basic operation of a PLC and its connectivity.

MIAC is perfect for this. Alternatively, a Siemens Logo! or other PLC can be used.

Producing computer programmes for use in engineering

Flowcode 6 is great for this too.

Hopefully, if you’re thinking of teaching this Mechatronics Engineering qualification, or indeed any other, you have found our investigation here interesting. Of course if you feel that what we have to offer at Matrix TSL is interest, let us know and we would be happy to arrange a visit or have a chat with you about your needs. Just call us on 01422 252380 or email sales@matrixtsl.com.

 

Note that prices are correct as of October 2015

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