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NWTC is using innovative technologies to enhance student learning

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Student wearing a virtual reality headset.
Student wearing a virtual reality headset.

Industry 4.0, the merging of smart digital technologies into production, manufacturing, and operation practices, has become increasingly important for regional businesses to stay competitive and meet industry demands. The revolution for a more automated and techno-centric workforce has also brought a host of new technologies to NWTC. The College is heavily focused on three Industry 4.0 areas, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and additive manufacturing (which incorporates new ways of material manufacturing – like 3D printing). These technologies are shaping industry, and NWTC is working hard to find new ways to include them in course curriculum to enhance student learning.  

NWTC already has the technology – zSpace computers, HP Reverb G2 and Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets, 3D printers, and more – and is working to continue integrating it into courses. If you are interested in seeing all the technologies the College is piloting, stop by room ET103, our new AR/VR learning lab on the Green Bay campus. All these technologies are available to students and will be integrated into courses over the next several months.  

Zspace computers have been installed in ET103, the Trades and Engineering Technologies atrium, and the Transportation Center. These resources are available for students to use on their projects, and we encourage you to sit down, test them out, and immerse yourself in the new technology.  

“You get so immersed in all the cool things you are doing you do not realize you are even working on projects – it almost feels like you are playing a video game,” said Jason Trombley. Trombley is the NWTC Instructor and Industry 4.0 team member leading the College’s AR/VR efforts.  

You get so immersed in all the cool things you are doing you do not realize you are even working on projects – it almost feels like you are playing a video game

Two programs Trombley is working closely with to integrate AR and VR into the curriculum are Architecture Design and Civil Engineering Technologies. Students in these programs could create 3D buildings and construction elements using existing 3D modeling software and then integrate them into 3D holographic models. “We could have entire course projects around designing sections of our campus. Architecture students could model the buildings, civil students could model roads, and our landscape students could fill in the details. Imagine taking a virtual walkthrough of those projects, seeing the campus grow right before your eye,” said Trombley. “The enhancements to learning and understanding from seeing your projects come to life are immeasurable.”

Other areas where AR and VR are changing how NWTC instructs students include the College of Business, Health Sciences and Education, and Public Safety. Soon, College of Business students will be using the HP Reverb G2 to practice giving speeches in a virtual reality environment. The software will simulate different spaces – from an auditorium to a classroom – tracking verbal pauses (like “umm”) or where their eyes were focused, giving insights on how engaging the presentation was. Employers consistently rate written and verbal communication as the highest-ranked employability skill. NWTC hopes this technology will help give our students another advantage on the job or during the interview process.

Nursing students in Health Sciences are already using simulations to recreate clinical scenarios and give more immersive and situational learning opportunities. The opportunities are endless, and the College is working to create more simulations to enhance the life-like scenarios nurses will have to face when working in a hospital or clinic.  

Last week, the College had representatives from HP and MasterGraphics at the Green Bay campus to help install a new HP Jet Fusion 580 3D printer; right off the Trades and Engineering Technologies atrium. The new multicolor printer takes 3D prototyping to the next level, cutting down on 3D printer waste by allowing material reuse, printing in multicolor to visualize modeled stress and strain, and printing more than one part at a time. Soon, students will get to experience this new printer in their courses.  

“Our students come out of College seeing the latest and greatest technology available,” said Dan Mincheff, NWTC's chief information officer. “Not only that, but they also help the companies they work at recognize new technologies and methods of production, adding value to our region’s workforce.” 

NWTC is committed to providing education and experiences that will lead to fulfilling, family-sustaining careers. The College will continue to provide innovative training utilizing Industry 4.0 technologies to ensure students are ready to tackle a dynamic, technology driven workforce.  

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