University of Utah’s Department of Chemical Engineering has received $108,000 in state-of-the-art control system tools and software from industrial automation company Opto 22. This generosity is the most recent example of the company’s ongoing support of U chemical engineering students in their laboratory courses.

Opto 22 develops and manufactures hardware and software for applications involving industrial automation and control, energy management, remote monitoring and data acquisition. The company, founded in 1974 by University of Utah engineering alumnus Robert Engman, is highly regarded in the automation and control industry for its innovation in modern solid-state relays and programmable controllers. Engman’s pioneering work in solid-state relay development first enabled communication between industrial equipment and computers using standard, commercially available technologies.

As part of a senior design capstone course, approximately 70 chemical engineering students at the U conduct experiments or examine a process with Opto 22 instrumentation each year. This exposure provides students with a unique opportunity to understand industrial-grade data acquisition and control in a laboratory setting before entering the workforce.

“The experiments students perform using Opto 22 equipment greatly enhance the presentation of a wide variety of chemical engineering principles, including separations, heat transfer and process control,” says Milind Deo, professor and chair of chemical engineering at the University of Utah. “Most students cite this class as the most important part of their curriculum—it’s clear these educational experiences make a long-lasting impact on our students and serve them throughout their careers.”

In addition to undergraduate students, U chemical engineering graduate students also benefit from a pilot-scale combustion and gasification facility that is fully automated with Opto 22 hardware and software.

“At Opto 22, we think it’s important to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum in our schools. A great way we can do this is to provide our made-in-the-USA, advanced automation electronics and software to the University of Utah’s Department of Chemical Engineering,” says Mark Engman, CEO and President of Opto 22. “We want to see today’s young engineers use these tools to develop the next generation of processing and manufacturing systems for the U.S. And we think they’ll especially like our new groov product, which makes it easy—and fun—to build mobile control interfaces.”