Discovery Magazine

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Technical Skills Training Grant for the Skilled American Worker

A machine whirrs, a drill bit comes down and begins to form a complex part. Metal flies off. The engineer stops the process, measuring the part to within one micron – about the size of a human hair split lengthwise 75 times. The engineer resumes the process but the part was designed wrong and the machine crashes. In this case, she is not worried. She has just designed and tested her part in a virtual environment. Instead of a problem that may cost tens of thousands of dollars and require weeks to fix, she pushes a few buttons and runs the process again. This is the power of a virtual training environment for design for manufacturability. It’s a whole new world thanks to this game-changing technology.

Florida Institute of Technology recently signed a subcontract for $520,000 on a U.S. Department of Labor grant awarded to the Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership to bring this exciting virtual training to Florida’s High Tech Corridor. The university will recruit for the TechPoint® software virtual training program and then place the 50 engineer trainees into manufacturing positions. The effort begins immediately and will continue over three years through the university’s continuing education department.

The university will partner with Time Wise Management Systems (TWMS) on this comprehensive program, which will be available in all 23 counties in Florida’s high tech corridor. To offer flexibility to serve such a large area, TWMS has six high-tech virtual training mobile classrooms. Each self-contained unit is complete with computer stations, instructional equipment and manufacturing machines. Trainees will not only be modeling parts in the virtual training TechPoint® environment, but they will also run the part on the turning and milling machines aboard the vehicles.

The Florida Tech Continuing Education principal investigator Cindy Schmitt is highly experienced in high tech industry and is currently a PhD student in human centered design with a focus in distributed learning and virtual training.

“Florida Tech has the experience to manage this program and TWMS is well placed to deliver the services,” said Schmitt. “The university, which has served the high tech industry in Florida for more than 50 years, is largely focused on engineering and scientific fields, making it a good fit for the project. As the distributor for TechPoint®, TWMS has extensive experience teaching aboard mobile classrooms. Together, the partners are singularly well suited.”

TechPoint® virtual reality training is a tool for creating a workforce that has the specific skills to meet individual manufacturers’ needs for skilled workers. The TechPoint® Training program offers advanced simulation technology, virtual training, and participant placement. This program is funded in part by a U.S. Department of Labor grant of $4,941,552.