Industrial technology obtains a virtual reality welding simulator

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Adjunct professor of industrial Technology Calvin Pepper, left, demonstrates how the monitor shows a simulated environment for welding. Nikisun Shrestha/The Lion’s Roar

The university’s department of computer science and industrial technology has been given a boost this past month as a result of GEO Heat Exchangers LLC’s donation of the new $65,000 welding simulator, a Lincoln Electric VRTEX 360.  

“The equipment is meant to augment traditional welding training,” said Anthony Blakeney, instructor of industrial technology. “Instead of the student going into a welding environment and actually using high temperature components, using electricity and using up metal supplies, they’re able to get on the computer, set up the virtual reality system and weld without trading fumes or heat and any issues like that. It is meant to expand on what students can do outside of the laboratory environment.”

Calvin Pepper, adjunct professor of industrial technology explains how the university was gifted with the machine.

“This was a gift from the company GEO Heat Exchangers from Baton Rouge,” said Pepper. “The company had purchased this unit with the intention of training their welders to improve their technique, but when they found out about the program that we’re starting over here, they were committed to helping us.” 

The virtual reality welding simulator contains various features. Pepper explains some of them.

“It has multiple welding processes that it can simulate,” said Pepper. “Right now, it’s set up for glass metal arc welding, flux-cored arc welding and shielded metal arc welding. It has algorithms basic programmed inside the machine that allows it to track the weld as it’s being made, and it has a reporting mechanism so that you can take the student back to the actual weld they were making and stop it in certain stages to show them where their technique might not have been as good as it needs to be. The safety features are pretty obvious. You’re not dealing with the fumes, heat and sparks and electricity.”

 Pepper describes how the equipment will enhance the learning process.

“The beauty of it is that I can take the weld the student just made, and I can step by step analyze the technique that they used,” said Pepper. “So, I can reinforce what I teach them at the lab or here in the classroom. I think it accelerates the learning process.”   

Blakeney believes the growing need of skilled welders helped the industrial technology program receive the donation.

“This whole idea in bringing this machine came because we met with our industrial advisor committee,” said Blakeney. “We have many companies in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area, and they work with our department to tell us, ‘These are the sort of things we need to teach, and this is the curriculum you need to be following.’ Our advisor committee made a suggestion years ago that we really need to expand on welding because there’s a huge need in welding professions.”

He further explains the upcoming plans of the program.

“The average age of welders is like, 50 and is going to 60,” said Blakeney. “They’re all going to retire. So, there’s a lot of jobs that are open. So, we took the initiative here at Southeastern based off of the needs of our local industry, and they’ve already made the commitment to hire students that come through the program. They are so excited about what we’re doing that they’re giving us machines like this. We’ve got another company that’s giving us, it’s over $100,000 CNC plasma cutting table. All we gotta do is go pick it up.” 

Students who are interested in the equipment can get access to it by contacting the instructors. 

“All they have to do is contact one of us,” said Blakeney.“We can allow them to come into the classroom. Students in industrial technology already know that the system is here, and they can have access to it.