Alaska Department of Corrections uses Simlog’s Personal Simulators to Create a Heavy Equipment Program

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Simlog Virtual Reality Simulators

Alaska Department of Corrections' (ADOC) Goose Creek Correctional Center (GCCC) opened in July 2012 and houses over 1,500 inmates. It is a mini-mum and medium custody facility for men. With over thirty newly established vocational programs, GCCC's mission emphasizes rehabilitation and re-entry into society.

GCCC's vocational programs are now operating at full speed, and growing. In particular, the addition of "NCCER Heavy Equipment Simulator Level 1 - 3" that uses National Center for Construction Education Re-search (NCCER) curriculum guidelines for Heavy Equipment Operations (HEO), and Simlog's Personal Simulators for practical skills training.

The Need for Simulation

Simlog's Personal Simulators were first identified by one of ADOC’s vocational coordinators at a workshop session during Anchorage School District's annual Summer Camp professional development conference in 2013. The workshop showcased the Alaska Construction Education Foundation's newly acquired portable HEO simulator lab with eight stations of Simlog's Hydraulic Excavator, Bulldozer, Wheel Loader and Forklift Personal Simulators.
News of the simulators was brought to the attention of Gary Olsen, ADOC's Criminal Justice Planner of Education. A six-week pilot program was set up shortly after the Summer Camp at ADOC's Spring Creek Correctional Center, using the portable HEO simulator lab on loan from the Alaska Construction Education Foundation.

"The pilot program received a very positive response from the inmates and they showed that they could take care of themselves and the simulators,” ex-plains Gary Olsen. “My vocational team and I then identified the NCCER courses for introductory HEO and thought that the simulators aligned perfectly with security concerns."

Simlog's Personal Simulators satisfied several important criteria for use at GCCC's new super-secure facility, and enabled Gary Olsen to obtain the funds to implement a Simlog simulator lab of his own:

  • Internet connection absolutely not required.
  • Securely containable within a vocational area.
  • Instant performance data on trainees' sessions.
  • Fit with NCCER as a recognized standard.

"The simulators also align perfectly with Department of Labor priorities on shortages of skilled workers," continues Olsen. "The construction industry has proven to be the least discriminatory when it comes to hiring returning citizens and high-paying HEO jobs are no exception."

A Cost-Effective Simulator Lab

ADOC purchased Simlog's Personal Simulators in 2014 to begin creating GCCC's first HEO program. The simulator lab consists of four networked simulator stations, including Simlog's Simulation Manager that automatically tracks trainees' simulation results.

Table-top mounted Replica Controls Joysticks are used to operate the Hydraulic Excavator, Bulldozer and Wheel Loader simulators. Replica Ball-Tip Levers, also table-top mounted, are used to operate the lab's Forklift simulator. Each station is also equipped with the required steering wheel, gear shifter and/or foot pedals that best reproduce the functionality of the real heavy equipment.

Two out of the four stations are Multi-Purpose stations that can operate the Hydraulic Excavator, Bulldozer and Wheel Loader simulators by taking ad-vantage of the multi-purpose simulator controls that are common to these three simulation software. Multi-purposing the simulator stations was a significant factor in making the simulator lab affordable for the institution.

"Cost-effectiveness of the simulators served as a significant motivator for creating the HEO program," comments Olsen. "Cost per trainee is very economical with safety for the inmates and convenience for the instructors also playing important roles."

Simulators at the Core of the Program

Inmates are allowed to participate in GCCC’s “NCCER Heavy Equipment Simulator” course if they meet the following criteria:

  1. Completion of the NCCER Vocational Math course.
  2. Completion of the NCCER Core Curriculum.
  3. No disciplinary infractions in the last 6 months.
  4. Have ample time to serve to complete the course (all 3 levels).

All “NCCER Heavy Equipment Simulator” classes are taught by NCCER certified instructors in a controlled learning environment. The instructors are not heavy equipment operators, but they all have a background in the skilled trades.

Being in a highly secure facility, inmates are not per-mitted outside the fence, nor are they permitted to operate real heavy equipment for training. The in-structor's role during simulator time is primarily as mentor. The trainees are doubled-up on the simula-tors, allowing them to observe and learn from each other.

"GCCC had been using NCCER text books for a couple of years but I used Simlog as an argument that we need NCCER certified vocational instructors to teach the courses," says Olsen. "With the simulators ful-filling the practical role for an introductory NCCER HEO course, we're lowering the barriers for a felon when he gets out."

The trainees' time on the simulators follows NCCER curriculum for Introduction to HEO levels 1 to 3. As they progress through the Simulation Modules, prac-tical exams are given on the simulators to prove that the skills presented in the NCCER text book can be accomplished on the simulator.

Each chapter in the NCCER curriculum requires a written exam with a minimum score of 70%, and a practical exam on the simulators with a pass or fail grade. Benchmarks are set for the simulators' Simu-lation Results so that each trainee knows how profi-cient he needs to be to pass.

The objective of the pass or fail is to determine if the trainees have acquired sufficient muscle-memory and proficiency for operating heavy equipment. Their level of control and operation can be tested and proven from the simulators' measurement and the record-keeping of dozens of operations per-formed using the controls.

Success to Date and Future Plans

GCCC began its first "NCCER Heavy Equipment Simu-lator" course with six trainees in January 2015. After four months, the first group of trainees took the final exam in May 2015. All six trainees completed the program and achieved a passing grade.

Pathways have already been established with several schools that will credit GCCC's NCCER program to their own curriculum. One example is IIisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska.

"We see the proof that an inmate's experience and muscle memory from the simulators will decrease the learning curve when completing his training on real equipment on the outside," says Olsen. "In other words, there is less time to gainful employment and less chance of recidivism after they are released."

By the end of the first course in May 2015, GCCC already had a waiting list of inmates wanting to participate in the program. Class size will be increased to fifteen trainees for the next course scheduled for July 2015.

“I would not have been able to do this without the support of my vocational team, Don Revels, Christopher Woods, Tim Flannery ,Terrence Glaze and Bryan Collison”, concludes Olsen.

Gary Olsen envisions rolling out "NCCER Heavy Equipment Simulator Level 1 - 3" with Simlog's Per-sonal Simulators at three other institutions. This includes the creation of ADOC's first HEO program at a minimum security institution that will take inmates from the simulators to training on real heavy equipment at the facility's gravel pit.

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Simlog

Take students from the classroom to the virtual work-site, as they explore their aptitude, develop real skills and learn safety-conscious habits.

Simlog is the world leader in providing affordable and effective PC-based simulation software for heavy equipment operator training in mining, construction, material handling and forestry. Called Personal Simulators, only Simlog’s products leverage the power of today’s PCs with the variety of USB-ready setup options needed to suit a range of training budgets. With hundreds of training service providers and equipment owner/operators around the world training thousands of people every year, Simlog products have been proven to reduce training costs, increase operator productivity, and help minimize the safety risks associated with operator inexperience.

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How Simlog can help:

With Simlog, your students will be learning the right way to do things, thanks to “best practices” input from our OEM partners and training professionals just like you. So you’ll find the right kind of simulated tasks, the right kind of task progression, and the right way of evaluating the simulated work. Add Simulation Manager software to track each students results and competencies as they progress through the training.

For additional information please visit www.simlog.com.

Introduce new career choices

Expose your students to a possible career operating heavy equipment, and set them on the path to high-paying jobs. Our Personal Simulators will provide a learning environment that encourages skills exploration, with students learning in a self-managed way. And having fun along the way will foster a completely new attitude toward learning!

Evaluate operator aptitude

Operating heavy equipment requires a combination of “psycho-motor” ability (manual dexterity), “sensory/perceptual” ability (depth perception), and “cognitive” ability (spatial reasoning). Unfortunately, studies show that up to 30% of training candidates don’t have enough and for that reason, can never become fully proficient.

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Becoming a Simlog customer means joining a growing community of leading educational organizations around the world, all dedicated to improving heavy equipment operator training. Share simulation benchmarks, best practices, and suggestions to help Simlog make our Personal Simulators even better.