The ITI has partnered with Interplay Learning to bring hands-on training to members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) and apprentices across the country through a virtual reality platform.
Interplay Learning takes traditional training and technology and merges them to create 2D and 3D simulations and virtual reality. The idea is to attract a new generation of professionals, change the way the workforce thinks about hands-on training and make learning faster and more powerful.
Interplay Learning is available across multiple platforms, including Apple, Android and PCs. Currently, SMART members can complete HVAC, electrical, safety, multi-family facility maintenance, plumbing and solar courses. A fire life safety damper testing module in 2D and 3D is currently in development. As the ITI and Interplay Learning develop curriculum and future virtual reality content, it will be placed in the portal.
Class participants can earn continuing education units for their North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certifications, a partnership with locals across the country. HVAC technicians with two or more years of experience can earn installation or service certifications in one or more of the 21 specialty areas, including 16 CEU hours needed to recertify.
Students can choose a course and track the level of knowledge and completion. Multiple levels are available, from beginner to master, and paired with an Oculus virtual reality headset, participants can work on a problem over and over until the correct solution is found.
The detail is hands-on, from environmental sounds to tools and equipment.
“You get totally immersed in the virtual reality world,” said Lisa Davis, ITI field staff and course facilitator.
Each course is made of modules, which may include short videos or simulations, that focus on a specific topic or component. Some culminate in randomized troubleshooting scenarios, which can include a little guidance or none, depending on the technician’s skill level.
“This gives you the opportunity to take it home and get real-world experience without the real world there,” said Darrell Garrison, ITI field staff and course facilitator. By practicing with the Oculus, “instead of saying you only have 40 hours of rooftop unit training, you can say you have 200 hours of virtual training.”
Recruiters and organizers also can use it as a recruiting tool. New participants can take an assessment test to see where their skills and experience fall, helping leadership to better assess where to place a potential apprentice in the program, Garrison said.
“Prior to the hands-on portion, students can complete simulations prior to training,” Garrison added. “It really levels a playing field with a class when you get them.”