(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s students, faculty and staff now have an opportunity to travel into a virtual world.
The Waco campus’ Learning Resource Center has six sets of TRANSFRVR headsets and hand controllers for the campus community to use to explore a range of fields, from aviation maintenance to welding.
“Case studies in both industry and higher education show that XR (extended reality) can decrease the amount of time spent learning while increasing retention rates,” said Michael Cropper, TSTC’s XR project manager. “This resonates strongly with TSTC’s goal of placing more Texans into better-paying jobs.”
The campus community can virtually learn how to use and inspect hand-held grinders and circular saws, make measurements with a metric rule, interpret technical drawings, understand how a paint robot works, and other skills.
“Students will now have the ability to complete dangerous, complex or expensive tasks in a safe, cost-effective environment before they make the attempt in the physical world,” Cropper said. “Traditional teaching strategies rely heavily on reading and listening; virtual reality is an experience.”
Students who recently tried the virtual reality equipment said they liked what they saw and experienced.
Emmanuel Mii, an Auto Technology student from Houston, virtually changed oil in a vehicle and demonstrated oxy-acetylene safety.
“It’s a great opportunity to get a basic foundation of what you are getting yourself into,” he said.
Jimmy Guerrero Jr., a Welding Technology student from Olton near Lubbock, said he felt like he was really in a welding booth during his virtual lessons.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I definitely see that (virtual reality) as a benefit to new welders coming into the industry.”
Nathan Jordan, an Avionics Technology student from Alvin, said he enjoyed learning new skills that are not part of his program of study. While donning the equipment, he learned about electrical hazards and welding.
“You are learning out of the classroom,” he said. “You are in the virtual world. You are creating a safe bubble.”
Some faculty have also tried the virtual reality equipment.
David Ray, an instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program, recently did a virtual culinary arts equipment and tools simulation and a carpentry exercise for the first time. He said the virtual life made possible by the headset was very realistic.
“I can see how it could be used as a learning tool for first semester students,” Ray said.
The equipment can be used from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, at the Learning Resource Center. TSTC students, staff and faculty will need to show their identification to use the equipment. Students will also sign a TRANSFRVR equipment use form.
“Our aim as a library is to help faculty by giving them more confident students,” said Emily Ramey, a campus librarian. “Even if there is nothing specific for some courses, there is some good safety training for anyone.”
TSTC’s Harlingen campus recently received four sets of TRANSFRVR equipment for that campus community to use.
Registration continues for the fall semester. For more information, go to tstc.edu.