The scene is an automotive factory, a massive warehouse with vaulted ceilings, exposed steel girders and caution strips running along the cement floors. You find yourself walking through this factory, observing the vehicle assembly line, perhaps pausing as a forklift glides past.
It all seems so real – which is exactly the point.
The virtual reality simulation of this factory floor, created by a team of Clemson researchers, is similar to what Clemson and its partner universities are now striving to create for the photonics industry.
Over the next three years, 40 lesson “modules” will be offered by a team of researchers at Clemson in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona.
What is a module exactly? Consider it a replacement of the old book-and-lecture format. Students learn through a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality, videos and programs, many of which can feel a lot more like video games than lectures.
First-hand lesson in spotting safety hazards
The factory simulation module, developed by the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, gives students a first-hand lesson in spotting safety hazards in an advanced auto manufacturing floor.
The goal of the modules, according to Mark Johnson, director of the Clemson University Center for Advanced Manufacturing, is to support the workforce needs of a wide range of manufacturing industries, with special focus on the photonics manufacturing industry moving forward.
“This program is an innovative way to equip the workforce of tomorrow with the skills needed to succeed,” Johnson said. “Our unique confluence of expertise and infrastructure will allow us to help provide industry with a deep, diverse pool of workers who are ready for jobs in photonics manufacturing.”
At its simplest, photonics involves the production of optical fiber and a wide range of devices that are critical to modern technology. Whether it’s lasers, CT scans or the internet itself, optical fiber is vital to the underlying functionality of so much of today’s digital world.
John Ballato, the Sirrine dndowed chair of Optical Fiber at Clemson, said the demand will only increase as 5G wireless networks are installed, which will carry the vast amounts of data that enable new technologies like driverless vehicles for example.
“You’ve got to put even more fiber up the poles, down the roads and into buildings,” Ballato said. “Some of these companies are setting up entirely new fiber-fabrication facilities just for the coming 5G expansion.”
To learn more about the factory simulation modules, check out Clemson’s EducateWorkforce.com.