'Exceptional' response to cutting-edge training: NORCAT debuts virtual, augmented reality training simulation tools at PDAC.

Author:McKinley, Karen

As the workforce becomes more technical, so do the methods n which people are trained for careers.

NORCAT has been working on this model since its inception and recently revealed the latest teaching tools to give students an interactive and immersive experience in a safe environment.

The organization debuted two new experimental programs at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in the Northern Ontario Pavilion in March.

They launched three programs: an induction training program described as a "ride-along" simulator program where people "drove" a load, haul, dump (LHD) with an avatar of a site manager; a virtual reality-based mine rescue program, to deliver a tailored-to-the-client, team-based learning; and a training tool that consisted of a tablet mounted to a fire extinguisher that ran a real-time augmented reality simulation of a fire emergency.

The reaction from the public, said CEO Don Duval, was immediate and very exciting.

"It was exceptional," he said. "It aligns to our mandate to become a global leader in skilled training development. These create a meaningful learning experience that resembles the true environment. That's why we've done it."

He said the programs were developed based on feedback from NORCAT's global mining partners that identified the need to provide workers with the skills and confidence to implement, operate, and manage emerging technologies that are being adopted by and transforming the global mining industry.

Speaking specifically to the programs, the fire extinguisher is designed where people look at the screen, which is mounted in a way to simulate reality, as they run a program to find an object in a room, "set" it on fire, and extinguish it with the pull, aim, squeeze and sweep technique.

The program helps eliminate errors with built-in mechanisms to show the user how to go through the correct motions, Duval said. The fire will continue to expand if they are not attacking the fire using the correct mechanisms.

The reason to have a simulated fire? There's a lot of risk in setting things on fire and extinguishing them safely.

"It allows for a meaningful learning experience without putting an individual at risk," he said.

The same need for meaningful engagement and safety is applied to the induction training program, where people "drive" the LHD with an avatar of the site manager they will eventually meet in reality to learn the rules and site plan before they arrive.

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