Learn by S(t)imulation
The objective of the Learn by S(t)imulation project, a Leonardo Da Vinci Community Vocational Training Action Programme project initiated by Lanxess, Bayer, Giunti Labs, Synergetics and regional vocational education centres, is to model, develop, test, evaluate and spread a generic simulation tool which allows process technicians to learn from a specific realistic context with (new) techniques and from their integrated impact on the processes in the process industry.
The processing industry includes various companies such as petrochemical companies, companies in the food industry, producers of plastics, etc.). All over Europe, the number of people that complete their studies in vocational training in order to qualify for a technical job in the process industry is far too low.
There is a strong belief in the industry that a lot of the students get discouraged by the cognitive way of learning. Their curiosity is triggered by seeing how something works and why it works (or does not work), rather than by someone telling them how it works. They could be far more motivated by a context driven situation in which they are confronted with actual processes and problems.
Due to the increasing automation, operators are not longer working in the field. They have to monitor the process and, only in cases of failure, they intervene. This has a great impact on the learning process of technicians. The fact that they do not operate any more in the field and that a plant cannot go down for experimenting purposes, makes that a process operator’s only way of learning is by watching and thinking. This fragmented way of learning makes it very hard for (new) technicians to update their skills.
The simulation tool that is used in Learning By Stimulation is intended to offer a concrete context to build up competency levels without having to shut down a production plant. This simulation tool consists of a 3D-simulation of a factory in which most measuring techniques are present (such as gauges, warmth exchangers, pumps, compressors, filters, etc.) with which the course participant can experiment. The course participant can virtually walk around in the factory, make modifications (e.g. Raise temperatures, open valves, activate pumps, etc.) and see the result on the production process.
The aimed result is a diagnostic training that will enable the operators to acquire competencies to analyse and solve technical disorders in an effective manner. Another aimed result is the improvement of the quality of professional trainings and the possibility of acquiring skills and competences through life-long learning for the employability and the development of the employees, while staying in touch with the latest technological changes.
The project functions as an impetus for innovation in professional education to the benefit of the process industry. The project promotes the innovative capacity of operators and reinforces the competitiveness of technicians in Europe, leveraging a higher added value than cheaper operators.
The project promotes a Europe of knowledge and life-long learning through the development of relevant and innovative e-learning content (such simulation surroundings where virtual 3D-environment, e-learning-content as well as simulation models are incorporated, are unique) and through the continual education of teachers and trainers (the tool is a learning environment for both course participants and the trainers themselves). The project concerns new professional training methods that coincide with the new, rapidly changing labour conditions.