TRURO – With spray gun in hand, Shari Mallory Shaw moves her hand from side to side trying to get proper coverage on the object she is painting.
“Aww, I missed a spot,” she says, as some of her teaching peers look on.
Except there is no paint and there is no object. This is virtual painting, after all, and what Mallory Shaw is seeing is occurring only through the visor she is wearing and on a computer screen situated just beside her.
“It’s awesome. That was fun,” she said, of the opportunity to check out one of the components of a new Mobile Learning Centre that was being demonstrated at the Truro campus of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) on Friday.
“The unit is fabulous and it just gives more access to people, shows that we’re progressive, that we’re there ready for what is needed in Nova Scotia,” said Mallory Shaw, a teacher in School of Business faculty at the campus. “This is an incredible work space. I would love to teach here.”
Campus principal Kevin Quinlan described the unit as a part of the “future of training” that will see a new form of classroom coming to the community “rather than the communities coming to us.”
“Industry can take advantage of this,” he said of the mobile unit. “Programs that are not available now, say in Truro, we could make available here for a year. Then it moves onto somewhere else where a program is needed.”
The mobile learning centre consists of two (tractor) trailer units that interlock to form a training – or workshop – space capable of offering a number of different programs.
“It’s an articulated unit that can pretty well run any trade,” said Dave MacMillan, academic chairman for Trades and Technology at the Institute of Technology campus in Halifax.
“It’s an extremely high-technologically advanced innovative way to have mobile training for our tradesmen as well as multiple other programs that are run through the Nova Scotia Community College.”
As well as providing students, apprentices or tradesmen the ability to learn the basics of spray painting techniques - without using an actual drop of paint - the centre offers the same capability for welding, some aspects of automotive-repair, pipe fitting, steam fitting or industrial mechanic training. “Even in some areas that may need machinist training we can put lathes (or) milling machines on this unit and we can do that type of training as well,” MacMillan said.
“Environmentally it makes a lot more sense too,” he said, because it allows students to learn the basics of a given application without using paints or metals or other materials.
“He can do it virtually and get the feel, the sound, the sense of it,” MacMillan said. “The virtual side is extremely realistic. Our brains are amazing things and when they see things, they believe it’s real. And with the virtual side that’s exactly what we’re getting out of it, a realistic feel a realistic effect, and when they go into the actual shop, they’re not wasting a lot of material and we can save some money.”
At this point, the mobile learning centre is the only one of its kind in the province and is currently being used solely for demonstrations purposes.
“We’re trying to get the word out and we’re showing it off and we’re making sure that people understand the high capability of this unit,” MacMillan said.
Eventually, however, the unit could be set up on road trips to offer any one of a number training programs at any one of the 22 NSCC campuses across the province.