Virtual Reality Tech: A Tool to Introduce Manufacturing to K-12 Students

ReadyCT and CONNSTEP, affiliates of CBIA committed to workforce development, are midway through a pilot project designed to introduce and assess the efficacy of TRANSFRVR technology in K-12 manufacturing education.

Students at Hartford Public High School (above) explore manufacturing careers with virtual reality headsets.

CONNSTEP, Connecticut’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center, was awarded a one-year grant from America Works, an initiative of the MEP National Network; the funds were used to lease five TRANSFRVR Oculus headsets. Through a no-cost loaner program operated by ReadyCT, the headsets are available to schools and manufacturing organizations through September 2022. 

Three of the five headsets are pre-programmed with Virtual Training Facility (VTF) simulation modules in plant safety, construction safety, precision measurement, blueprint reading, mechatronics, paint robot troubleshooting, and electrical fundamentals, with each training simulation requiring less than thirty minutes to complete. 

The other two headsets are programmed with career exploration facility (CEF) simulations, where students complete tasks associated with a robotics specialist, paint shop specialist, robot maintenance, assembler, quality assurance, maintenance and repair worker, maintenance and sanitation, or site safety specialist. Each CEF simulation can be completed within five to 18 minutes.

Hundreds of students over the past six months have explored manufacturing careers through the use of this virtual technology. The headsets have been loaned to Hartford Public High School, New Britain High School, Tourtellotte Memorial High School (Thomspon), Synergy High School (East Hartford), and Danbury High School. New Haven Public Schools is next.

The headsets were also in use at two two regional career awareness events: the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Association’s Youth Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, and the Aerospace Components Manufacturers (ACM) Future WorkForce Opportunities fair, which, year after year, draws over 1,000 students to learn about the many career paths available in the local aerospace industry. 

Survey data from the regional events indicate that 100% of students who completed a career awareness simulation felt more informed or knowledgeable about a manufacturing career after the headset experience; 91% indicated that their thoughts and excitement about manufacturing changed after completing the simulation; and 11% were more likely to pursue a career in manufacturing. Students were very likely to recommend the headset experience to a friend or family member. 

For more information, or to request the VR headsets, contact Deb Presbie, ReadyCT project coordinator for the Manufacturing Skills for CT initiative.