Science and Technology News

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sheppard technology unit saves training squadrons an estimated $344,000

by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

8/9/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- At the click of a mouse an Airman can virtually step off into the wild blue yonder, looking at an airplane that reacts to real-time keyboard controls.

This simulation is an electronic world created by the 982nd Maintenance Squadron's instructional technology unit meant to mimic flight controls and show how they correspond with the movement of the aircraft. Creating this virtual world was an in-house project which saves an estimated $344,000.

Their mission is to find innovative and technological approaches to teaching Airmen in Training about the different aspects of the maintenance career field.

"Everybody has a stake in this," said Patrick Gilbert, 982nd MXS project manager. "It enhances the instruction."

Many maintenance Airman won't touch their first fully functioning plane until they reach their first base. Before this project, many of the instructors had to resort to explaining, or "acting out", plane controls.

"It puts a more realistic picture in their head," said Master Sgt. Jeremy Dyess, 362nd TRS heavy flight chief. "This gives them more of a comprehension."

The simulator, originally meant for the 365th Training Squadron, soon found itself useful for three other maintenance oriented training squadrons as well, which cut down on redistribution costs.

"We save money, the product sells itself and students learn," Gilbert said. "It's C3-minded because that's the way we operate."

The ITU credits a lot of their success to their development process and team cohesion. They also incorporated the knowledge of subject matter experts to get as accurate a product as possible.

"We all work as a team and make decisions while simultaneously meeting mission objectives," said Rachel Lewis, 982nd MXS project designer. "We're able to get products out more quickly than in the past."

While creating the simulation may have been challenging for the team, they have a lot of confidence in the usability of their training system.

"We build our products so they can be used in their entirety or used as pieces," Lewis said.

The simulator can also be used for higher skill-level courses across multiple occupations of the maintenance career field, which adds to the cost savings.

"When we build it for the customer, it's not service-specific," said Gilbert. "It's built for maximum reuse."

With the simulator slated to affect as many as 5,400 students per year, the team's goal is to constantly find new ways to instruct students in a cost-efficient manner.

"That's the best part of the job," said Jennifer Andrews, 982nd MXS project designer. "That's what we're here for."

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