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Virtual painting latest innovative educational tool

October 4, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
Virtual Painting Latest Innovative Educational Tool at Nashoba Tech

Posted by Dan Phelps September 20, 2011 via ISPR - Nashoba Tech once again finds itself on the cutting edge as the first school in the area to employ an innovative, virtual-reality spray gun that allows instructors in the Automotive Collision Repair & Refinishing program to teach students how to paint -- without actually using paint.

Nashoba Tech introduced the SimSpray machine, made by the VRSim company, at the recent Firemen's Muster in Groton, and students were using it from day one of the new school year. "It allows us to train kids without spraying any paint," said Matthew Kamfonik, a second-year Automotive Collision Repair & Refinishing instructor. "We're not wasting any product, we're not putting pollutants into the environment, and we're not exposing freshmen to any chemicals that they're not trained to deal with."

SimSpray is, essentially, a 3-dimensional painting system that allows a student to put on a virtual-reality helmet, hold a realistic spray gun, and visualize a section of car that needs to be painted. The student uses the spray gun as if he is actually painting and can see on a 3-D virtual model where he would be applying paint. The student's performance is captured on a screen so the instructor can see how he's doing. "It's safe and eco-friendly, and it immerses the student into a spray booth without him actually being in a spray booth," Kamfonik said.

SimSpray allows the student to apply primer, a base coat and a clear coat, then grades the student on five different areas: transfer efficiency, or how much paint he applies and how much he's wasting; thickness of the coat; angle of the spray gun; distance; and speed. Kamfonik said he and fellow instructor Michael Robichaud will use SimSpray as part of the final exam for upperclassmen.

"It's a good training tool," Kamfonik said. "The upperclassmen have a tougher time with it because they're used to being in a spray booth spraying actual paint." "It's different from being in the booth," said Shawn Callahan, a junior from Woburn and formerly of Chelmsford. "It's like being in another world," said Camaron Carter, a senior from Townsend.

Superintendent Dr. Judith L. Klimkiewicz said the inclusion of SimSpray into the curriculum allows Automotive Collision Repair & Refinishing "to shift more into a technology-based program, to appeal to 21st-century skills and appeal to a generation of students who are, by far, more comfortable on computers than most adults."

This isn't the first time that Nashoba Tech's Automotive Collision Repair & Refinishing program has been ahead of the curve when it comes to innovative teaching methods. Three years ago, the program was the first in the area to implement into its curriculum waterborne paint, which contains less volatile organic compounds than other types of paint and is less harmful to the environment.

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