Students at Miller Middle School and Marshalltown High School gave welding and other industrial arts activities a try this week thanks to virtual reality technology brought in by John Deere.
John Deere staff guided students – and plenty of staff members – through activities like welding and excavation using a mix of real-life movement and computer-generated effects.
“It was challenging,” said Miller seventh grader Ella Spitzli after trying the welding activity. “Part of it was keeping the angle of it just right.”
Participants strapped on a welder-style virtual reality mask, took hold of a welder, and did their best to trace a straight, narrow, computer-generated line, imitating a real-life weld.
“It was fun and it taught me how to weld, like the position to hold it,” said seventh grader Jacob Christen after trying out the program.
Jacob said he currently plans to pursue a career in engineering after high school. Ella said she is unsure of what career she will pursue, but enjoyed trying the industrial arts activities.
Students also got to take the virtual reigns of heavy excavation equipment, guiding the machinery through a series of tasks while trying to avoid doing any damage to the equipment.
Virtual reality goggles showed the students different scenarios in which such heavy equipment could be used.
The students not only tried the virtual reality activities, but were also informed of various career choices in the industrial arts field.
“(John Deere staff) brought all of the kids together and did a whole-group discussion,” said Miller Instructional Coach Jennifer O’Neal. “They’re talking to kids about how these things that they’re trying out connect to some pathways they could choose for careers as they move into high school and beyond.”
Each group of students filled out exit surveys after trying the activities, and O’Neal said the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Casey Brodersen of John Deere said he and his fellow staff members enjoy showing students the various career pathways they can pursue.
“The purpose is pretty simple. It is to illustrate to the children that the future is theirs, and it’s wide open,” Brodersen said.
In particular, he said he hopes outreach to students helps increase the number of girls who become interested in the industrial arts. Trying the activities allows all students a chance to see if they would be interested in a certain career path or not, Brodersen said.
Marshalltown Community School District provides many opportunities for students to get exposure to local careers. Some examples, along with this week’s John Deere activities, include Lenihan Intermediate School students visiting local businesses, Miller Middle School’s Modular Technology Lab, job shadows, and much more.