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Logan Hughes of Hornbeck tried his hand at using the virtual welding machine.
Students get demo on high-tech virtual welder
Experience enhances traditional hands-on instruction
Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – Members of the Cenla division of the American Welders Society presented a demonstration on virtual welding training for students and faculty at Northwestern State University in which users don a welding hood that simulates the actual welding experience in a virtual environment, grades the user on essential variables and tells the user what they are doing wrong. Students and faculty from the Department of Engineering Technology, the Department of Fine and Graphic Art and the Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences attended the presentation.

 The VRTEX system is a teaching tool that alleviates the high cost of training, saving money on materials, electricity, consumables and waste, said Gerald Bickerstaff, education chair of the Cenla AWS. The machine, developed by the U.S. Navy, is designed to enhance training, not replace hands-on experience and offers learners the opportunity to refine technique in a safe environment before they pick up an actual welding tool. 

Bickerstaff, a welding instructor at Central Louisiana Technical Community College, is completing his graduate degree in adult education at Northwestern State and used the machine as the basis for his thesis.