HSIL receives $4 million to expand virtual reality education program

With $4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, a new project called A2 proposes to build on the success of Clemson University’s Center for Aviation and Automotive Technological Education using Virtual E-Schools (CA2VES). CA2VES launched in 2012 to create and deliver accessible e-learning material for a nationwide audience to support aviation and automotive technological education. This transformative, scalable, and flexible e-learning delivery model seamlessly integrates classroom and hands-on laboratory experiences for a diverse technician-education audience. A2 brings together multiple stakeholders. CA2VES is leading the effort and is partnering with Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Technical College, the South Carolina Technical College System, and Florida’s Indian River State College, along with several industry partners, including BMW Manufacturing Co., Michelin North America, Lockheed Martin, and Upstate SC Alliance.

The current COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting impact on education have increased awareness of the need to address the challenges of learning online not only in the current situation but also for potentially disruptive situations in the future. To address this environment,  A2 will allow CA2VES and its partners to expand on their unparalleled success in the design and development of high-quality, cost-effective e-learning tools for automotive and aviation manufacturing workforce education, two of the United States’ largest tech industries.

By building on CA2VES, A2 will continue to bring together industry and educational partners to develop, disseminate, and curate e-learning tools to improve education and training and provide nationwide access to A2 manufacturing industries. The simulations created as part of CA2VES are distributed on EducateWorkforce.com.

The courses, which include several virtual reality simulations, help teach everything from professionalism and teamwork to laser beam machining and computer-aided maintenance. EducateWorkforce.com has reached 50,000 users in 49 states and the District of Columbia since launching in 2012. Collaboration with existing and future A2-focused Advanced Technological Education centers and projects and the curation of their e-learning materials, along with CA2VES materials, will allow for the optimization of individual efforts. These activities will deliver maximum effect and capacity-building for all stakeholders.

While still addressing the challenging nexus of education and underrepresentation, this modified collective impact approach extends the use of e-learning to support engaged stakeholders who can then educate a diverse and proficiently skilled A2 workforce. Through being informed by industry, governmental agencies, and academia, A2 will not only address the educational needs of today but will also focus on the manufacturing educational requirements of tomorrow and the technologies necessary to address the future of manufacturing.