(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College unveiled the first Immersive Interactive training labs in the state of Texas at ribbon-cutting ceremonies on May 18.
The new labs, located at the Abilene and Brownwood campuses, will be used by Emergency Medical Services students to train in a variety of virtual settings that can help prepare them for stressful and demanding real-life situations.
The realistic settings — enhanced with sounds and even smells — include a garage with a car on fire, a grandmotherly living room, a city park, a lake and a volcano, to name a few.
TSTC is the first college or university to provide the technology in Texas, and the college plans to add an ambulance simulator in the future.
“It takes a visionary to see the future,” said Kurt VanOordt, a sales executive with Echo Healthcare, the vendor for the equipment and technology. “We are excited to be partnering with TSTC, which shares our vision in education.”
That vision is being expanded with the help of TSTC’s EMS instructional team. Ronnie Pitts, the statewide chair of the EMS program, is working with Echo Healthcare to design the ambulance simulator, which will include 4D technology similar to that in movie theaters.
“We are working to design the ambulance to meet our needs,” Pitts said. “When we have that available, TSTC will be the first school in the United States to offer the technology.”
VanOordt said he is excited to be working on that project.
“The students will be able to feel everything, from riding over a railroad track to the roughness of a dirt road,” he said. “It will be a fully functional cab, meaning if there is a hard brake by the driver, everything shifts.”
Andy Weaver, TSTC’s West Texas provost, said having the new technology on campus shows TSTC’s commitment to the future.
“I am excited TSTC is able to shine the light of education throughout the state of Texas with this wonderful technology,” he said.
Pitts said the road to the ribbon-cutting ceremonies began three years ago. He was at an EMS conference when he was approached with a preview of the Immersive Interactive technology.
“This technology is endless because it is always evolving,” he said.
Pitts said the support of TSTC’s administration for the project is why TSTC is the leading provider of EMS education in Texas.
“I knew this technology could be something we could use,” he said. “Our leadership has promoted this type of technology all of the time. This will benefit a lot of our students.”
Abilene resident Aubrey Brown, who recently graduated from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Paramedic, was one of the first students to use the lab. She said it will benefit TSTC for years.
“We walked in and did not know what to expect,” she said. “After being in the lab, it was awesome. This will be a big selling point for TSTC and the program. I know when people learn about this technology, they will want to go to school at TSTC.”
Pitts and EMS instructors in Abilene and Brownwood demonstrated the technology for those in attendance at the ribbon-cuttings.
“Simulation has been important in education for years,” VanOrrdt said. “The hands-on approach of learning has been critical. This technology will allow students to use their critical-thinking skills in a controlled environment.”TSTC has scheduled the ribbon-cutting for the Harlingen campus’ Immersive Interactive lab for June 7.
Besides the Associate of Applied Science degree in Paramedic, TSTC offers several certificates of completion in Emergency Medical Services at the Abilene, Brownwood and Harlingen campuses.
Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.