JVS welding program adds augmented reality equipment

EDUCATION TOOL — Welding students at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School have some high-tech tools to practice their skills in the classroom. Miller AugmentedArc equipment simulates welds and helps students hone their hand-eye coordination before performing tasks on actual steel and other materials in their program lab. -- Contributed

BLOOMINGDALE — The welding program at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School has added augmented reality equipment to mimic working with actual tools.

Instructor Todd Parker said the Miller AugmentedArc technology was added in December and his 38 students are getting some practice for real work in the lab.

Unlike virtual reality, which is much more immersive, augmented reality superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world to provide a composite perspective. Parker said students wear special helmets and view simulations of materials to practice their welding skills.

“The goal is to use it to introduce new procedures and processes and save on materials and consumables,” he explained. “The type of technology is augmented reality, so when you are in a classroom you are viewing a superimposed image. It’s very similar technology to virtual reality, but the students never get the idea they are in the classroom.”

Parker said helps students because they are able to hone their hand-eye coordination and are better prepared to weld with real materials.

For advanced students, it helps by providing a pipe simulation to aid with more intricate work.

“They learn a repeatable task without wasting material and can see the superimposed steel or various materials and (the equipment) can be set for various processes,” Parker explained.

He continued that students practice between one hour to 90 minutes before they begin their normal schedule, but they must attain a minimum score within the 90 percentile on the classroom simulator before they can work on projects in the welding lab.

The equipment also is useful for demonstrations during events such as eighth-grade visits and sophomore tours, plus students who have been absent can catch up on their schoolwork.

“We can offer advanced skills to advanced students without breaking the budget,” Parker said, adding that it saves hundreds of dollars on materials in the process. “We invested in it to be more fiscally responsible to the taxpayers as we educate the students.”

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