Success Stories of Edit Micro
Virtual Welding Simulator
South African welding company, Hydra-Arc, have experienced tremendous time and cost savings through using their new virtual reality welding simulator. Hydra-Arc provides welding and related services to clients in the petro-chemical industry in Secunda, Mpumalanga. Leaders in their industry, Hydra-Arc recently received the prestigious international Quality Crown Award and are in the process of building a world-class training centre for welding. Since acquiring the TeachWELD simulator In April of 2013, Hydra-Arc have revolutionised the way they conduct their recruitment and training.
Jan “Pottie” Potgieter has been in charge of training services at Hydra-Arc since the company first opened their José Maciel
Welding Academy in 2003. Pottie recognised the benefits of welding simulation long before advanced computer simulation technology became affordable. Pottie innovatively constructed his own simple training tools that teach the steady hand technique required for welding using the principles of a wire-feed buzzer game often played at fun fairs.
Despite its numerous advantages, virtual reality welding simulation has until recently been out of reach for most welding training centres. The TeachWELD system was developed in the USA by Realityworks and launched in South Africa by Edit Microsystems in early 2013 as the lowest-cost welding simulator on the market.
The TeachWELD system incorporates realistically designed hardware components and computer-based software that simulates a virtual welding booth. Inexperienced welding trainees are able to practice basic welds in a safe environment, without using any costly consumables. Trainees get instant feedback from diagnostic reports on their weld metallurgy and technique, and can then use dexterity guides to improve their technique. Pottie and his instructors are able to track their trainees’ progress remotely. Hydra-Arc have found that using the simulator in the initial stages of welding training saves time and consumables cost, as the trainee already has the basic skills and understanding by the time he or she reaches the workshop training floor.
Hydra-Arc have used the highly portable TeachWELD simulator to reduce time and consumables cost during recruitment. According to Hydra-Arc Training and Testing Controller, Hannes Venter, the labour pool in Mpumalanga is insufficient to meet the needs of local industry, thus Hydra-Arc must travel to major cities around South Africa to recruit qualified and experienced welders. Previously, Hydra-Arc would hire a workshop at each recruitment venue for pre-screening testing. The pre-screening allows instructors to assess whether the candidate has sufficient welding experience to be invited to the Hydra-Arc testing facility in Secunda for an official trade test. Since the introduction of the simulator, the process has become more cost effective and less time consuming.
Now, during the interview phase, candidates must do a weld on the simulator, which Venter can then instantly assess. Venter has found that good welders (even those who are not familiar with computers) are able to perform welds of sufficient quality on the simulator to pass the pre-testing phase, while inexperienced welders with dubious qualifications or employment history are easily weeded out. Venter explains that, “With the simulator you can see the points we are looking for…as a good welder you will know how to control your travel speed, how to control your arc length, how to move in a smooth motion”.
Even though Hydra-Arc require welders proficient mainly in the SMAW and GTAW welding processes, they have found that the purely GMAW process TeachWELD simulator has not limited their recruitment or training. “With all welding processes there’s a couple of things that are the same regardless of the welding process being used; your travel speed for instance, the guy must be able to read the welding to see if the melting pool is constantly the same shape, if the speed he is travelling at is constantly the same. It doesn’t matter which process you use, all of those things come into play.” Similarly, training on the TeachWELD simulator allows the trainee to become proficient in these skills before progressing to real life welding in any welding process.
Hydra-Arc have found that the consumables cost savings within the first three months of using the simulator for recruitment alone covered the initial capital outlay of acquiring the system. Funded by accumulated cost savings of the pilot phase, Pottie Potgieter reports that Hydra-Arc will be expanding their simulation programme when they launch their new training centre.
DionWired allocates its full corporate social investment budget, through Edit Microsystems, towards investment in SMART Technology and Clicker literacy software for special needs schools catering for children with a wide range of physical and intellectual disabilities. The DionWired Special Needs project has been running since 2011, and to currently involves over 15 schools from around the country.
In conjunction with Edit Microsystems, DionWired has identified the schools according to a stringent needs and capacity assessment. SMART Gold reseller, Edit Microsystems, is accredited to provide installation, support and teacher training to each of the schools. Edit Microsystems also provides ongoing support and monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the technology in each of the schools.
“Until now, this technology was available mainly to schools with substantial funding,” says DionWired general manager Andrew Jackson. “We are bringing it to the children who need it most. We are committed to boosting education and, since our product range features the latest technological innovations, our partnership aligns perfectly with the DionWired brand.”
The SMART Board interactive whiteboard is a large touch-sensitive screen that works with a computer and a data projector to provide a central focal point in a classroom and allows teachers and learners to write with pens or move objects such as images with their fingers.
The DionWired grant includes the SMART Board, a notebook computer, speakers, microphones, data projector, SMART Notebook collaborative learning software and training, valued at approximately R50 000 per school.
Jackson says that the collaborative software meets specific educational needs. “Children with disabilities often benefit from the tactile experiences which interactive whiteboards provide. The tactile learner is instantly engaged by the colourful images and can directly interact with the board by manipulating letters, words, pictures and numbers. At the same time sound effects can be added to objects on the board to assist aural learners.”
All SMART Board interactive whiteboards come equipped with SMART Notebook software, which allows teachers to create and deliver interactive lessons that can be saved, shared electronically and printed. Internet access introduces educational resources through the SMART Exchange website where more than over 50 000 digital lesson activities are available in SMART Notebook, free of charge.
The Internet also connects students and teachers to sites such as Google Earth and YouTube. Teachers have easy access to thousands of videos, scientific animations and other multimedia resources and can invite specialists into their classrooms via SMART Bridgit conferencing software or Skype.
According to Anand Sirkissoon, principal of RP Moodley School in KwaZulu-Natal, which received a SMART Board interactive whiteboard from DionWired, “The SMART Board holds children’s attention and keeps them interested for longer periods. Educators have the option to appeal to one or more senses. Information can be presented visually, making language more meaningful for a child with low functional speech. Touchscreen technology enables a child with physical limitations and the partially sighted to participate in learning.”
The DionWired schools have also each received award-winning Clicker 6 literacy software, which can be used by learners of all ages and abilities, including those with dyslexia, learning difficulties, physical disabilities and other special needs. of lessons and resources for Clicker can be downloaded, modified and even created from scratch by educators, and then shared amongst other educators over the internet.
Jane Noble of the Browns’ School in KwaZulu-Natal notes that, with the SMART Board, “Social intelligence can be nurtured through group learning and teamwork. Creative intelligence can be accessed via music, dance clips and interactive musical / dance / theatre software. Now we have an endless world of learning programmes, documentaries, DVDs, curriculum-based games – a multimedia library that can be accessed at the touch of a button.”
“A particular benefit to schools focused on special needs’ children, is teachers’ ability to ‘ plug in’ to the network of other teachers who also use SMART Board technology and may be facing similar challenges,” adds Jackson. “With SMART Bridgit conferencing software, teachers in different regions can share their experiences and assist each other to overcome obstacles.
Vodacom ICT Resource Centres
The Minister of Basic Education has declared 2013 the year of Inclusive Education. In line with this, in partnership with Edit Microsystems, Vodacom has donated technology for inclusive education and special needs to each of the nine ICT resource centres, enabling these centres to cater to learners of all abilities.
Besides a selection of hardware equipment, each resource centre has loaded ten computers with software and accessibility devices suitable for learners with special needs. Each computer is equipped with an internet connection, giving learners with special needs the power to access a whole new world of information and communication.
Each of the computers has been installed with award-winning Clicker 6 literacy software, which can be used by learners of all ages and abilities, including those with dyslexia, learning difficulties, physical disabilities and other special needs. Clicker software integrates seamlessly with accessible switches for special needs. Thousands of lessons and resources for Clicker can be downloaded, modified and even created from scratch by educators, and then shared amongst other educators over the internet.
The Eye-Pal Solo is a reading machine that scans printed text using a digital camera with optical character recognition (OCR) and allows students to listen to the output over its built-in speakers using a natural sounding voice. The output can also be saved to an external flash drive for further editing. The Solo is useful not only for blind or visually impaired individuals, but also slow readers, early readers and individuals suffering from dyslexia.
Computer accessibility is now available to learners of all abilities. Dolphin Supernova Access Suite software enables blind or visually impaired individuals to access the text and images displayed on the computer monitor in various ways.
A selection of switches and other accessibility devices will enable physically disabled learners to access the computers at the centre. Switch-It and Choose-It software is also loaded on each of the computers for novice switch users to practice and become accustomed to their new devices.
The Grid 2 software program has a built-in speech engine that allows non-speakers to communicate through switch access and symbol assistance. The Grid 2 also enables a switch user to access any software on their computer, their cellphones and even social media applications such as Facebook and YouTube.
Boardmaker is a communication tool that can be used to create interactive or printable communication boards using widely recognised symbols. Both boardmaker and The Grid 2 are customisable so that unique solutions can be created for each learner.
Where computer-based communication is not the ideal solution for an individual, the Supertalker is a portable, easy-to-use, touch or switch-accessible piece of hardware for communication or recognition activities.
For individuals suffering from low vision or other visual impairments, the centres have received two other multifunctional hardware devices – the HumanWare Smart View Synergy and ILowView.
The Synergy is a desktop video magnifier that magnifies and enlarges text, objects and actions, enabling visually impaired users suffering from macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or many other low vision eye conditions to read and write. Similarly, the ILowView is a portable video magnifier that enables low vision learners to make their reading mobile. The ILowView can even be used to zoom in and focus on text or images that are far away, enabling learners with low vision to see the writing on the classroom board.
At each resource centre, Edit Microsystems has provided introductory training to staff and inclusive education stakeholders from the surrounding community. Educators and district officials that attended the training were amazed and excited by the possibilities that this new technology could hold for their learners. Feedback from the training shared over Vodacom’s DigitalClassroom online discussion forums was extremely positive.
Edit Microsystems has set up Skype accounts for each of the Resource Centres, allowing for on-going training and support for the project, and is committed to ensuring sustainability for the project.
The enthusiasm of all stakeholders involved in this project points the way for an inclusive, accessible future for all South African learners with special needs.