Gillette College Receives National Award For Virtual Reality Mine Training Program

Oct 29, 2019

Gillette College instructors and administrators receive the 2019 NIOSH Safety and Technology Innovation Award at an awards dinner in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Oct. 21.
Credit National Mining Association

A virtual reality program developed at Gillette College has been nationally recognized for its innovation.

The college's Industry Safety Training Center won a Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The programs uses 360-degree photos, drone footage and virtual reality technology to train students on approaching blind spots from 10 different types of mining equipment.

Blind spots are some of the most dangerous situations in mining, said Nick Ullrich, a Gillette College instructor.

"The project allows students to see and understand all of the equipment, people and light duty vehicles that are around them the whole time they are operating one of these pieces of equipment. The actual footage from a mine and the specific piece of equipment helps them understand exactly where those blind spots are and how big they can be," Ullrich said in a press release.

Northern Wyoming Community College District President Walter Tribley said technology like this is an opportunity for students to do safer job-based training.

"They're able to create scenarios that do not endanger the students. They don't endanger equipment. They don't require the educational programming to pull pieces of equipment out of work...for the purposes of education," he said.

The technology is an example of how community colleges adapt to local needs, Tribley said.

"Gillette College has done exactly what a strong community college should be doing and working closely with industry and getting people the training that they need," he said.

Tribley added he can see this type of training expanding to other programs, especially in health fields.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.