Todays’ product development process is characterized by an increasing use of embedded software solutions integrated into mechatronic products. The development is more and more translocated into a virtual environment. New software methods and tools have to be developed.
Industry 4.0 is an approach to highlight the tendency of modern development. Communication between smart products, communication via internet technologies, cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things are the basis of Industry 4.0. Owing this development, used project management methodologies have to be adjusted. In special the well-known V-Model is now extended to the W-Model to cope with the new requirements like communications between different disciplines. New approaches in virtual development have to be adapted to modern teaching techniques. Therefore a course for first semester mechanical engineering students is conducted by the department of Computer Integrated Design at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. Industry 4.0 fundamentals are taught as well as the development process underlying the so called W-Model. The students will apply this knowledge while they participate in exercises. A web-based tutorial is provided every week with different learning packages. With these learning packages, the students learn to use the project management techniques as well as software development techniques to solve different tasks. Later complex data structures and algorithms can be coded and are applied. The software development techniques, established in development of information technologies, gets more important in mechanical engineering. Therefore the students learn these aspects. Over three months length the students work in groups and use all their skills to realize a bigger software-project — a digital factory. They use a virtual testing environment (ViTMeS 3.0) to develop their solution. The presented ViTMeS 3.0 is a further development of a virtual testing environment used in last year’s team work. Later they can test their code with a real life example. This example, the digital factory, built with LEGO Mindstorms, is an important part of teaching students the foundations of communication and information techniques as well as software development and programming skills. The last step of the team work is the coding of a graphical user interface for appropriate visualization.