UTICA – The Utica Campus Automotive Technology program has some innovative new virtual reality technology to help students learn and train for careers.
zSpace is a virtual automotive shop that allows students to practice repair procedures multiple times, which will enable them to pick up new techniques quicker, said Eddie Perry, an instructor in the program.
“It allows us to do a lot of the things we do in the lab in the classroom,” Perry said of the new teaching tool. “We can disassemble engines. We can assemble engines. We can take parts out of the engine on the screen in 3D form and we turn that part around to get a better view.”
With zSpace, the automotive students now have the ability to run various simulations in a virtual automotive shop, allowing them to practice repair procedures multiple times. Perry believes this will allow him to teach his students new techniques quicker. “We don’t have to wait on a vehicle to come to the shop. We can just open Zspace and model the repair in the classroom,” he said.
Perry isn’t the only one excited about the introduction of the zSpace.
Freshman Wendell Griffin, 60, of Edwards, see this as an opportunity to hone his skills. Griffin has been working on cars since he was 17 and believes the zSpace can only help him better help is customers.
“You can kind of visualize what you are going to work on rather than going in there guessing,” Griffin said. “It just lays everything out and you can practice visually. That’s amazing, because a lot of the time when I tear an engine down, I’m just guessing and you can damage stuff when you do that, plus it’s time-consuming.”
Fellow freshman Cortavious Ross, of Vicksburg, says he enjoys using zSpace but still likes the chance to work on actual vehicles.
Jonathan Townes, dean of Career and Technical Education, believes the zSpace will help current students and future students.
“As students continue to grow, technology is increasing and one thing we wanted to do was increase technology infrastructure. This will allow us the ability to satisfy the needs of tech-savvy future students who are more aware of virtual instruction,” Townes said.
The new concept of auto shop should also better prepare students for post-college life.
“I’m always trying to do whatever is needed to get them into the industry and get them jobs as quick as possible,” Perry said. “This will make them more prepared for the industry. With the zSpace, you can see and experience what the problems are and do it. But, it’s not as hands-on.”
The zSpace was funded by a $24,000 allocation from federal CARES Act. The department was able to purchase the zSpace license on a large CPU and six student laptops.