Washington, DC and Hammond, Ind.
VR Capability Propels CIVS, PNW Stature at NSF-ATE Conference
CIVS’s 10-year-long, continuous history of developing cutting-edge wind energy training simulators using virtual reality and augmented/mixed reality technologies was on prominent display in Washington, DC, during the National Science Foundation’s annual Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Principal Investigators’ Conference, held October 24-26, 2018 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Purdue University Northwest was also among a very few institutions to site a pair of booths at the conference—and thanks to the projects showcased, CIVS and PNW are expanding their national reputations for innovative development of virtual reality instructional systems.
“CIVS has a long and continuous, uninterrupted history of wind energy projects,” CIVS Director Dr. Chenn Zhou observed. “Using virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality technologies, CIVS has developed numerous wind energy simulators through grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s FIPSE [Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education] program and the National Science Foundation. These simulators have been developed in collaborations with industry, community colleges, and universities, and some have already been used for education and training for design, troubleshooting, maintenance, and safety.”
CIVS Research Engineer Kyle Toth and Senior Research Scientist John Moreland hosted the “Troubleshooting and Safety Simulator for Wind Turbine Technician Education” booth, which presented both the overall project scope and latest progress on development of an interactive, 3D simulator for teaching troubleshooting and safety skills to prospective wind energy technicians in community college wind energy programs. Along with around 200 other groups, the duo also engaged in an informative presentation about their project, gained further perspective on changes in education through the decades from former NASA scientist and “human computer” Dr. Christine Darden (who provided the keynote address), and broadened their own field knowledge through roundtables and other sessions.
“We reviewed what the CA2VES and Clemson groups are doing—and their visualization methodology is similar to ours,” Toth said. “The trend towards more VR [virtual reality] use in classrooms means that what CIVS does visually is becoming less unique, but still, we’re among the very few who can draw on such expert content knowledge and cutting-edge simulation and visualization capabilities. And thanks to our faculty, staff, and industrial and SMSVC partners, it’s all in-house expertise, so to speak.
“We also attended a session on copyrighting for software and data related to ATE projects, and a Friday morning roundtable on the use of deep learning algorithms in educational software to help find and/or improve learning outcomes.
“Purdue Northwest was also among very few schools to have more than one group representing them—the CITG [Computer Information Technology and Graphics] Department had Professor Ge Jin and others there with a booth for their ‘Manufacturing Education Using Virtual Environment Resources’ project. I think they also had a VR headset that was able to interact with a 3D printer and showed you how to go from a model to a finished product.”
About the Advanced Technological Education Program
The National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program provides grants to improve and expand educational programs to prepare skilled technicians to work in high-tech / STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields that help drive the U.S. economy. The program is Congressionally mandated and focuses on undergraduate and secondary school education.
With the support of the National Science Foundation, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) coordinated and organized the National ATE Principal Investigators’ Conference, now celebrating its 25th year. The conference brought together around 900 people to focus on the critical issues related to advanced technological education. Key people working on ATE projects across the country participated in the conference. Conference attendees represent community colleges, business and industry, secondary school systems, and four-year colleges covering projects in a wide variety of areas such as information technology, engineering technology, micro- and nanotechnologies, chemical technology, biotechnology, and others.