Advanced Technology Systems Laboratory

Clemson University

Industrial Engineering
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  Current Sponsored Research > ASSIST  


Development of Automated System of Self-Instruction for Specialized Training:
An Interactive Simulator for Automated Inspection Tasks

Imagine an interactive software that develops a person's ability to inspect? Clemson University funded by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in collaboration with Delta Air Lines and Lockheed Martin Aircraft Center has developed a computer-based multimedia training (CBT) system to do just that. This CBT draws on our inspector's knowledge and skill to hone other inspectors' technique training, resulting in more effective inspections, which will then improve aircraft maintenance safety and reliability.
The Automated System of Self-paced Instruction for Specialized Training (ASSIST) software consists of two parts: a general module to provide potential inspectors with general information such as the role of an inspector, factors affecting inspection, safety and inspection procedures; and a task simulation module that allows the "inspector" (trainee) to conduct a simulated inspection of an aft cargo compartment. The simulated inspection even includes simulated ambient noise such as rivet guns, hangar door horns and other sounds found in a hangar where inspector may be working. During the simulation, the trainee visually searches for and classifies any defects and writes up a computer generated non-routine card. He or she is provided with immediate feedback on his or her performance.

According to the research team, there are many reasons for developing a computer based instruction program: the older, more experienced inspectors are now retiring, and we need a more consistent system to train and retrain inspectors on inspection techniques. In addition, both the airline industry and FAA agree that steps are needed to enhance inspection effectiveness. "Delta benefits from participating in the study because programs like this take a proactive approach to human factors aviation maintenance research," says Scott Turco, Director Compliance and Quality
Assurance. "The results of this research will be used by Delta, and hopefully by aviation communities around the world." The prime benefits of ASSIST to Delta, according to George Stuckey-General Manager-Quality and Chief Inspector, "is a consistent and efficient training process for new inspectors, using a structured training program that never existed before."

ASSIST Software
Sample Screen from the Instructor's Manual

Purpose of ASSIST
Automated System of Self Instruction for Specialized Training (ASSIST) is a multimedia computer- based program designed to train and retrain aircraft inspectors. The goals of the ASSIST software are:

  • to provide training in aircraft inspection,
  • to allow users to learn at their own pace,
  • to monitor the progress of users, and
  • to motivate the users to learn and use the skills through an interesting media-rich and interactive environment.

System Development
Development of the ASSIST software was centered on the aircraft inspector requirements determined from a detailed task analysis. The software evolved through appropriate stages of specification, storyboarding, prototyping, development and user testing. To ensure the software addressed the needs of the aviation community, the designers worked in close cooperation with Delta Air Lines and Lockheed Martin Aircraft Center.

General Inspection Skills Instructional Module
An introduction explains the need for good aircraft inspection practices and presents an overview of the program. Then, the ASSIST software provides five instructional modules:
Role of Inspector: The inspector's role in the aircraft maintenance environment.
Safety: Safety issues that concern the inspector.
Aircraft Review: Types of aircraft the inspector may encounter.
Factors Affecting Inspection: Taxonomy and description of the factors that affect aircraft inspection.
Inspection Procedure: Detailed descriptions of how to perform aircraft inspection.

After the subject goes through the five modules, the ASSIST software provides questions that test the inspector's knowledge on the above topics. The ASSIST software also includes an aircraft inspection simulator. This simulator presents an inspection assignment on the form of work card and information, such as descriptions and indicators, on the defects that may occur in the inspection task.
The task is to inspect the floor area of the aft cargo bin of an L-1011 aircraft. The user can visually search the area, click on a defect to record it, write the appropriate discrepancy report and use necessary inspection tools. The simulator can run in feedback/no feedback modes and paced/ unpaced modes. The simulator setup is customized from the "Simulator Setup" option in the Instructor's Module.

Some of the inspection parameters, which can be varied, are:

  • Feedback / No Feedback Mode
  • Paced / Unpaced Mode
  • Pacing Time
  • Number of Defects
  • Difficulty of Defects
  • WorkCard Text
Aircraft Inspection Simulator Modules

Instructor's Module
This module facilitates the collection of data and setting of parameters to run the simulator. It provides a detailed and overall summary of the results from the test/quiz for each user. The parameter setup sub-module allows the instructors to set up and create inspection scenarios.

Who Can Use the ASSIST Software?
The ASSIST software was designed in a modular format in order to benefit the greatest variety of potential users. The modules and sub-modules may be used as stand-alone training programs or combined in different ways to fit training situation. In addition, the video and graphics may be incorporated into other software in order to make a customized presentation. In general, entities that would benefit from the ASSIST software include:

  • Students and Instructors at A & P schools
  • Certified Repair Stations (inspectors, supervisors, trainers, aircraft maintenance technicians)
  • College and Universities with aviation disciplines
  • Researchers investigating issues related to inspection
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