State of the Art Simulator Trains Students, Miners How to Operate Equipment

By KBJR News 1

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 11:36 PM CDT

Hibbing, MN (NNCNOW.com) - For those training how to operate mining equipment, heavy equipment simulators are the closest you can get to the real thing. Only nine colleges in North America have this type of simulator and Hibbing Community College is now one of them.

"It's real experience without being in a real, live truck," said Mary Brandt, Customized Training Representative at Hibbing Community College.

This state of the art simulator demonstrates what it's like to operate a mining truck. The screen simulates the actual landscape of mines like Hibbing Taconite.

A special helmet with attached sensors allows the machine to monitor where the driver is looking.

"If I do this [moves head] it adjusts the mirrors like I'm actually using the mirrors," said Hibbing Community College Provost Dr. Kenneth Simberg as he demonstrated the equipment.

The technology is impressive, but more important might be what it does for safety. By putting students in the simulator before they train in the real trucks makes them better prepared for operating the expensive and potentially dangerous equipment.

"The safety, the damage, stuff like that, they'll be able to have done that in a simulation. Just like at the mines," said Brandt.

The machine tracks the operators progress, noting when they make mistakes, but it's not just students doing the learning. Those currently working in the mines will use the equipment too to keep updated with industry advances.

"It's kind of the best of both worlds," said Brandt, "Students get it, they get a better workforce for our next generation and incumbent workers get the skills they need upgraded."

The simulator is valued at more than $1 million. It was purchased through a Minnesota Job Skills Partnership grant and matching contributions from Essar Steel Minnesota, Hibbing Taconite, JoyGlobal and Immersive Technologies.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.