Innovative program teaches virtual welding in the classroom

Posted on 15 Mar 2016 by Tim Brown
A competitor in the WorldSkills London 2011 welding category
Teachers in Iowa are using virtual reality to teach welding.

In the small city of Clarinda, Iowa there is such a need for welders that the high school has begun an innovative program to teach students the fundamentals of welding through a virtual reality setting.

Manufacturers in the area are crying out for qualified welders and as it is a small city with little to offer in the way of employment, the population is not significantly mobile.

Clarinda High School explains the need for industrial arts

In a statement given to The Daily Nonpareil, teacher for the school’s Industrial Arts program, Dave Carper, says that they “had to do something” because of the town’s very real need for welders. In his words, “This really fit the bill.” The program only consists of a wiring station that includes a welding gun. To make the setting much more real, students are equipped with welding gloves and a helmet. One of the most interesting aspects of the program is the software that provides a virtual setting for the students. This software can be loaded onto any laptop or desktop and when run, a welding booth comes ‘alive’ on the screen and the students are then taught, in virtual mode, how to weld with three types of fittings.

How the software works

Carper explains that students taking the class actually feel like they are using real welding equipment, like that you can order from specialty shops like Welding Outfitter. And, although it doesn’t actually have substance, it would ‘feel’ like you were doing a welding project. He says that the ‘welder’ turns yellow if they’ve gotten everything correct and they are graded on such things as the angle of the weld for the type of weld they are creating.

Virtual learning vs. welding in the real world

Actually, educators realize that this is just an introduction to welding on a high school level. In the real world the welding equipment they will be working with has weight and the heat is enough to melt metal, of course. Students would have an idea of what they would be doing but until they get a real ‘hands-on’ experience, they would not be able to go out on a job. It is possible to attend technical colleges to learn how to work with actual equipment but until they have had further training on real equipment, they wouldn’t be able to apply at those manufacturing plants that are so short of qualified workers.

In today’s world, virtual classrooms are becoming increasingly common and when it comes to a trade like welding, it could be just the impetus a student needs to actually consider a job in this field. In years gone by a young man or woman would not have had the benefit of a virtual classroom and would most likely have been introduced to the trade by a friend or relative. With the benefits of a virtual setting that ‘feels’ like you are on the job, it is thought that more students will become interested in trades they never would have dreamed of in the past.