With North Carolina considered a top state for manufacturing jobs (it boasts the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast), Guildford Technical Community College (GTCC) is prepared to groom more workers to fill any potential skills gap.1 GTCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing opened the doors of its 250,000 square-foot facility in 2018; the six-acre building offers more space to five college programs and more state-of-the-art equipment. Thanks to program expansion, its welding program now has over 70 welding and cutting stations as opposed to its previous 32.
“I have partnerships with several employers in the community. That way, we design a program so that students are prepared to go to work for that company,” said longtime welding instructor Don Ellington. Ellington has been at GTCC for over 15 years and played a major role in the renovation and opening of the center. Ellington knows the community has a need for quality welders, and he believes his program can help solve that gap.
With the expanded facility a few things are crucial to making it successful: recruitment, ensuring students are engaged and ensuring that Ellington is producing quality workers for the community. One addition he made to his program to address each of these requirements: virtual welding simulators.
“These kids can try out welding on the simulator to see if
this is something they are even interested in and I can evaluate their progress
before putting them in a booth,” said Ellington. “I can adjust the simulator to
create a WPS to meet the needs of a local employer. We create modules that are
custom to those employers with very specific WPS’s.”
Another benefit of the simulators is cost savings. Ellington
believes he will save about 10% on metal by using these machines. More
importantly, his students will receive proper training to ensure they are a good
fit for this career path.
“I see value in saving material costs, but more, I see value in students getting a common understanding of the basics, such as travel angle, work angle, nozzle distant, speed and straightness,” stated Ellington.
GTCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing utilizes several Realityworks, Inc. products, including the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. Both tools were created and are used in educational institutions around the country to help today’s 21st Century students learn correct welding techniques and engage them with authentic, hands-on learning experiences while addressing classroom management and safety concerns. For more information on Realityworks products, visit: www.realityworks.com
Note: This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Techniques. ACTE members can read the complete article on page 8 of the current issue. Not a member? Click here to join and access this monthly career and technical education publication.
THE DRIVE FOR CREDENTIALING IN CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE) HAS BEEN A BOON
for students, inspiring educators to rethink how they prepare students for high-demand, high-skill and high-wage jobs. CTE program administrators strive to hire certified instructors, and funding is often based on the number of students to achieve certification in high-demand, high-wage and high-skill fields.
In the past, this might have meant purchasing high-cost equipment to mimic the workplace. Students would train on those products and perhaps become proficient. But now preparing students for these jobs is less about equipment, and more about the skills necessary to move into a career in a chosen field.
The Cost of Hands-on Learning
When you think about a hands-on learning resource for welding programs, you might consider that welding is hands-on by nature. Often, welding students gather at a distance, all dressed in protective equipment and darkening helmets, as they observe an instructor demonstrate a very intricate technique. Students are expected to watch, understand and then practice. is can be a very costly endeavor; students learning to weld can go through materials very quickly, and they don’t always develop a deep understanding of what they are doing. Simulation, in comparison, allows students to
experience welding in a way they can’t in the booth — learning, for example, why a work angle is critical to creating a weld that will hold. Simulation allows them to experience and improve the skills they need to become certified welders.
Simulation is a method for practice and learning. It is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones. rough simulation, students can replicate the real-world welding experience and become immersed in an interactive fashion. is results in a deeper understanding of the necessary skills, and it enables them to transfer those skills even faster. In welding, students can master techniques like work angle, travel angle and speed in a safe environment before they enter a welding booth.
Studies show that students who learn to weld in a virtual environment learn faster and more efficiently (Stone, McLaurin, Zhong & Watts, 2013). To create a quality weld, you need to master speed. Welding procedure specifications require a welder to perform an optimal weld at a specified number of inches per minute. If you were told to move your hand from left to right at 11 inches per minute, how would you know how to do that? How would you know if you were going too fast, too slow or just right? You would practice and practice, examining your welds for defects and hoping you would eventually gain mastery.
In the virtual world, students are guided so that they gain muscle memory from the start. They receive immediate feedback and are given the opportunity to alter their speed if necessary. Once student welders have mastered their technique in the virtual world, they can move on to real equipment and welding metal. Making these resources available to many students at once is crucial to the success of the welding workforce.
ACTE members, log in to read the complete article on page 8 of the May Techniques issue. Not a member? Click here to join.
Diane Ross is the education development manager for Realityworks, Inc., where she works with states and school districts to develop better programs, products and pathways in career and technical education programs. She has a master’s in secondary education from Marshall University and is an advisor for the National Standards for FACS Education. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Realityworks, our Account Managers and other team members attend nearly 100 tradeshows over the course of a year. So, what is tradeshow season? Of those 100 annual tradeshows nearly HALF occur during the summer, between June, July and August. In addition to our typical FCS and Career and Technical Education Conferences, we’re excited to be talking with you once again at Agriculture Teachers Education Conferences featuring our new interactive animal models and Health Science Education Conferences introducing our new hands-on nursing skills training.
Our Account Managers are passionate about our products, love sharing the newest educational tools and enjoy seeing you interact with our great hands-on learning aids in the booths. Based out of Eau Claire, WI, many of our products that you see at tradeshows are shipped cross-country and put on hundreds of miles before they return home.
Did you know that Realityworks…
has only 9 Account Managers traveling to the nearly 50 summer tradeshows? We also send employees from our home office to help support them.
has the Account Managers traveling to about 30 states in 10 weeks.
expects to meet over 46,000 conference attendees this summer.
supports national conferences and organizations such as AAFCS and HOSA.
will be giving approximately 40 presentations during this time, highlighting our experiential products and providing you with useful tips and tricks to help you in the classroom.
The importance of storage space in CTE classrooms and shops cannot be understated. After all, the more organized you are, the better you can manage your classroom and keep your students safe, on task and productive. Yet teachers constantly tell us that they don’t have enough storage space in their classrooms – and much of the time, the storage solutions that are in place take up valuable work space.
That’s why we created our Portable Workstations. These sturdy carts feature locking wheels, three drawers (one of which locks), plus a rugged, grated worksurface that is tough and durable.
Roll this mobile welding workstation into any area of your classroom or workshop to:
Store tools and Personal Protective Equipment
Complete woodworking, metalworking or small engine repair projects
Keep your favorite tools close at hand, and safely locked up when not in use
Work with up to 500 pounds of materials
Safely store gas cylinders for even the largest welders and projects
Protect your equipment from slag and grinding dust
Work on welding projects by incorporating the removable welding curtain that comes with the cart
Demonstrate techniques and best practices from a point of view that all students can effectively observe
Store projects and extra scraps
Set up a portable welding workspace or learning station anywhere
Learn more about our Portable Workstation from the Realityworks team member who helped develop them, Mechanical Engineer Mike Zaborowski:
We recently hosted a panel discussion about why virtual reality welding works for today’s CTE students. Featuring Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks Support Specialist and guideWELD® trainer Chris Potapenko and Arizona welding instructor Kenton Webb, the webinar featured candid conversations about how instructors across the country are implementing this technology into their programs and using it to engage students, foster skill development, boost confidence and save money.
Below are excerpts from the live presentation (watch the complete recording here).
1. It’s a great tool to use with beginning classes
“I’ve found it best to start off with my beginning level classes where a lot of those kids have never welded before so they don’t know the difference in between live and virtual. It’s definitely helped them as they’ve started off with something harder and then when they get out into the shop it’s a lot easier for them when it comes to the live application of it. It also helps them build their confidence. Sometimes welding equipment is terrifying to kids and they’re scared of the sparks and the heat and the fire.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
“It’s a great tool and utility to bring in new students to get them started with the basics of welding. It eliminates some of the fear factors that go into getting them out on the real machine where they’re dealing with the heat, the sparks, the fumes. It’s a great resource to have in that safe classroom environment, it’s going to teach them all of the core functions of welding and give them that immediate feedback as well that they’re looking for.” – Chris Potapenko, Realityworks Support Specialist and certified guideWELD® trainer
2. The guideWELD® VR welding simulator by Realityworks comes with WPS’s (Welding Procedure Specifications) and the ability to make your own WPS’s, to gear it towards your own curriculum.
“I’ve created 9 separate WPS’s that the students have to go through and hit at an 80% or higher before they can move on to the next WPS,” said Webb. “Once they’ve finished and hit that mark in the classroom then I also have the guideWELD Live and they go out and use those with the actual hands-on weld.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
“Being able to create your own welds that your community might be doing. We have schools that say, ‘just down the road we have welding jobs open, I want my students to be able to get those welding jobs, and I want my students to be able to practice those kinds of welds.’ They can put into guideWELD VR the exact parameters that they need to do. It ties in that career interest.” – Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager
3. Virtual welding can improve learning for students
“Because they do get immediate feedback and they can actually see what they’re doing wrong immediately as they’re going through the weld that definitely helps them. Even with my special education students, it gives them more feedback that they need and gets them more comfortable using it before they go out and use the real thing. It covers your basic work angles, travel angles, distance and all of that so when I’m using that terminology out in the shop it’s not going over their head because they’ve been introduced to it.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
4. Virtual welding can save your program money, and guideWELD VR will help prove how much you are saving
“I was able to go and figure out, ok this is what I would pay for the steel, if I was doing these joints this is what it would cost per joint. So, I was able to see, each class by the time they were done with the 9 modules, and it counts every attempt that they do whether they pass it or fail it, so there were some of my classes that if they were out in the shop they would have burned through $800 worth of material and that’s not even including the gas and wire, nozzles and tips that they would have burned through learning how to do it on the live thing. It definitely helps educators justify the cost for it, in terms of down the road this is saving us money and for some of those programs that don’t have funding for unlimited metals and stuff like that it gives them a little more time to start them off in the class but then still not worry about running through all of their material before the end of the year.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
5. Students love the gaming aspect of virtual welding
“With kids being more tech savvy and gamer savvy, they really do enjoy doing it because they are coming to school to play a game so you are getting a little bit more buy in and interest as well. Another thing I noticed is some of them will turn it into a competition where they see one kid get a 95 then the other kids are ‘oh I can do better’ and they are going back for more and trying to beat each other with a little competition.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
These responses were extracted from our webinar, “Why VR Works: A Panel Discussion,” which can be found here or viewed below. This discussion was facilitated by Kenton Webb, welding instructor from Marana High School, Tucsun, AZ; Jamey McIntosh, product manager for Realityworks; and Chris Potapenko, technology support specialist for Realityworks.
By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Communications Specialist
We created the guideWELD® VR welding simulator to give instructors an inexpensive yet effective way to engage students in welding career exploration and train them on the fundamentals of welding. We know demand for skilled welders is growing, and tools like these help students develop the basic skills they need to succeed in related careers. Five years later, we’ve visited welding classrooms and shops from Arizona to Alaska, helping CTE instructors implement virtual reality welding simulators in their programs. Along the way, we’ve learned a few key lessons:
Students and instructors alike have shared the fun they’ve had trying to beat their peer’s scores on the guideWELD VR welding simulators, which assess users on their work angle, travel angle, speed, nozzle-to-plate distance and straightness, then provide a cumulative score.
Rodian Manjarres was a high school welding student at J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, SC when we caught up with her at a National SkillsUSA competition. She told us of her own guideWELD VR use, “We were all trying to beat each other’s scores and kept taking more turns. Everyone was really excited about it.”
In fact, the simulators’ competitive aspect was a particular benefit to this female welder.
“I liked it a lot because I could beat the guys at it,” said Manjarres. “There are only a few of us that can get the gun to turn gold.”
Instructors have found that competition encourages students to continue enhancing their form and technique and build muscle memory. And the more students use this training tool, the more developed their welding technique becomes.
“Cool tools” can impact fundraising efforts.
We’ve spoken to several ingenious instructors who bring their guideWELD VR units to open houses and other community events. The simulators grab attendees’ attention, helps them understand what students are learning and help generate support for their classrooms.
Dan Leinen uses the simulators in his agriculture classes at Harlan Community High School in Harlan, IA. He told us of one event where letting a community member try the simulator directly impact that individual’s willingness to donate to his ag program.
“This particular company owner had an FFA background but had never welded,” said Leinen. “He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.”
guideWELD VR is portable, and its virtual nature means there is no gas, ventilation or sparks to worry about. By showing the community what you’re doing in your classroom, they see what they could be supporting.
Technology is attractive.
Recruitment might be one of the most common ways we hear guideWELD VR being used. The tool’s video game-like environment appeals to today’s technology-driven students, and the lack of sparks calms common welding fears. And in regions where students aren’t coming from farms or other environments where welding is the norm, instructors enjoy having a safe way to introduce the skill to new users.
John Paulus uses the simulators in the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab. The lab travels to various locations across Western Wisconsin to provide middle- and high-school students with manufacturing career exploration opportunities.
“A lot of these kids have never touched a welder or turned a lathe in their life,” said Paulus. “We’re trying to get these kids excited about getting skilled and getting into manufacturing careers. This equipment is enhancing our ability to do that.”
Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR
They’re tech-savvy. They have short attention spans. They love to learn, but they are not afraid to ask “why?” – why are you teaching them this task, why are they practicing that concept, why are they studying this topic?
One way to answer those questions is to show your health care students just how in-demand health care careers are. Doing so will give them a better understanding of why the skills they are learning are so important.
This infographic contains 12 eye-opening statistics about health care careers. Download it today to give your students a daily reminder of the career opportunities you are preparing them for.
Learn more: Our webinar, Cool Tools for Engaging Today’s Healthcare Students, explores innovative classroom resources for teaching healthcare students with short attention spans, excellent technology skills and a desire for authentic, real-world learning experiences. Watch it here.
We’re excited to announce our spring webinar schedule!
Each fall and spring we offer a series of free webinars that revolve around the Career and Technical Education world. These sessions are presented by our product managers, product support team, and even some of our account managers get in on the fun.
If you see a webinar that you’re interested in, but can’t make the time or date, make sure to register for it anyways! We will send you a link to the recording along with any presentation materials once the webinar is complete.
Take a look at what we have planned for the spring so far:
Explore Welding Career Pathways with Hands-On Training Methods Monday, January 21st @ Noon CST
“My ultimate goal is to help these kids get a successful career so they’re not walking away from high school with just a diploma – they’re walking away with a skill they can use,” said Webb. “I’m humbled by this award. It’s nice to get recognized for the work you put in.
About 250 students participate in Marana High School’s welding program annually, an increase of almost 200 students from when Webb began the program 10 years ago. In the last nine years, the program has come to be one of the premier high school welding shops in the state. First-year students use the guideWELD VR welding simulator to hone basic welding skills in a safe, virtual environment, then use the guideWELD LIVE real welding guidance system in the welding booth to understand proper welding techniques and master bad habits. Webb also challenges his students to identify and assess their own welds using the RealCareer™ Weld Defects Kit.
“What I saw and heard when I visited Kenton’s classroom made his passion for educating clear,” said McIntosh. “He knows that being able to help his students truly understand where an in-demand skill like welding could take them is key to engaging them in welding training.”
Realityworks’ CTE Champion award is awarded to educators in programs related to Welding & Trade Skills, Family & Consumer Sciences, Agriculture and Health Science. Learn more about Realityworks by visiting www.realityworks.com.