Okefenokee Technical College board members enjoyed the opportunity during the May and August meetings to get out of the board room to see and learn about newly purchased program equipment. During the May meeting, Andy Brannen, OTC vice president for economic development, reported that a new-to-OTC 7300 Derrick Truck was recently purchased for the electrical lineworker apprentice program.
Brannen invited the Board to see the new training vehicle parked in front of the college. He explained the benefits that the truck will provide to the program enabling students to have considerably more CDL training time with a vehicle that is more reliable and better suited for the task.
Kevin Metts, lineworker program instructor, fielded questions about the truck and program. Metts told the Board that the electrical lineworker program provides skills and training necessary to qualify as a lineworker for utility companies. He also stated that the eight-week program, which offered its first class in March 2007, is covered by the HOPE Grant for qualified individuals.
Brannen commented on the success of the program and the collaborative partnerships that have been formed between OTC and area utility companies in an effort to sustain a qualified workforce in the field.
At the August meeting, Danita Cannon, OTC vice president for academic and student affairs, invited board members to follow her to the welding lab to view a demonstration of the new VRTEX 360, a virtual reality welding trainer.
Board members learned that through immediate and continuous feedback to the welder and the instructor or observer, the VIRTEX 360 accelerates the learning process. It helps students learn proper body position, gun angles and position, travel speeds, and welding techniques. In short, it promotes the transfer of skills from the virtual training environment to the weld booth.
After Doug Furman and Ryan Deal, OTC welding instructors, demonstrated the trainer, board members were invited to enter one of the virtual welding environments and test their skills. Board member Daniel Johnson took the challenge and completed a weld.
The VRTEX 360 rates each student’s performance according to American Welding Society (AWS) guidelines, gives the welder a numerical weld score, and keeps detailed records on all students who train on the machine.
According to Furman, the simulator makes the welding program leaner, more efficient, and ecofriendly by reducing the cost of materials needed for class. Students can practice basic skills and more advanced techniques using the simulator before trying them out in a live welding exercise, thus reducing the amount of materials used, reducing gas emissions and waste products generated by welding classes, and consuming fewer resources.
“You’re using just an eighth of the electricity compared to what’s used in the welding booth,” explained Furman. “There’s no metal, no gas, no oxygen, no alloy fumes. The student can’t get burned; therefore, it’s safer, as well.”
OTC board directors and administrative staff take a moment from the board meeting to inspect the 7300 Derrick Truck recently purchased for the electrical lineworker apprentice program. Board members in attendance included Jack Johnson (Alma), Dr. Keith Johnson (Ware), Lee Gowen (Charlton), Bonnie Davis (Charlton), John Pharr (Ware), Pete Pyrzenski (Ware), Phillip Cook (Clinch), and Dr. Greg Jacobs (Brantley). Kevin Metts and Andy Brannen (far right) of OTC share information about the truck and lineworker program.
Kevin Metts, OTC electrical lineworker apprentice instructor, is pleased to have this “new to OTC” Derrick Truck as part of the program’s training equipment.
OTC board member, Daniel Johnson, gets a quick lesson on the VRTEX360 head gear before testing his skills on the virtual reality welding machine. The standard-looking welding helmet has a special eyepiece that allows the wearer to see all the details normally associated with a welding setting.
OTC instructors Doug Furman (left) and Ryan Deal (center) watch as board member Daniel Johnson welds using the VRTEX 360, a virtual reality welding trainer. Following the August meeting, board members were invited to the welding lab to see how the VRTEX 360 enhances student learning. Board members Jack Johnson (Alma), Phillip Cook (Clinch), Lee Gowen (Charlton), Daniel Johnson (Pierce), and Pete Pyrzenski (Ware) attended the demonstration