Funding Awarded to the AEMT to Develop Cutting Edge Ex Training Platform
Image source: The Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades (AEMT)
The 24-month-long project aims to take the courses, which are currently delivered in face-to-face sessions, online through a virtual learning and assessment environment where delegates can 'handle' virtual machinery and equipment to understand key principles of the design elements.
The hazardous area, or Ex, courses are delivered across the globe, and in 2019 the association delivered training in 20 countries to delegates from 40 countries. However, during the COVID pandemic, this delivery was significantly affected, and it became apparent that an online option was needed. But it was clear that transferring the courses to a digital environment would not be a straightforward task. The in-person training requires a large amount of interaction with Ex equipment to understand how it operates and must be repaired, plus the assessment of the delegates' competencies is very much a practical activity.
To identify an approach that would cover the needs for interaction and assessment, the association approached the University of York, which it had worked with before. The University proposed using interactive, interrogatable models, known as virtual twins, to deliver the hands-on environment. This cutting-edge approach will allow course delegates to examine and explore the equipment previously taken to each course, from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
Thomas Marks, the AEMT's General Manager and its lead on the project, commented: "We typically visit 20 countries a year to deliver our Ex training, with delegates travelling across borders to attend the courses. A fundamental value of the AEMT is to support and drive sustainability – it's what our members do, repairing and remanufacturing electromechanical equipment to extend its life. So, aside from broadening the reach of our training and improving our resilience, the chance to reduce the significant amount of travel required by delegates and our lecturers will have a hugely positive impact on our carbon footprint."
Dr Hamed Ahmadi, a lecturer at the University of York and the project's lead academic, added: "As well as benefiting the training the AEMT carries out, this project will support our delivery at the University. The lectures we deliver for our engineering courses require significant practical activity. During the pandemic this presented challenges when lectures had to move online. Developing the work carried out with the association will give us greater flexibility and improved resilience."
The project will run for two years, with a beta release scheduled for the first quarter of 2023. This will enable the project team to gather user feedback to factor into the platform's development ahead of its full launch, which is scheduled for the second quarter of 2024.
Once the Ex training courses are fully operational, the association plans to bring other training relating to the repair of electromechanical equipment to the platform.