Students take giant steps using new technology

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael Briggs
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
Airman David Golas is a lot more confident working with the KC-10 Extender aircraft because he has observed, close up, the systems that make the aircraft work.

With the education he received here at the 373rd Training Squadron's Detachment 1, he can trace electronic circuits, track fuel flow and locate potential maintenance problems throughout the aircraft -- before he has even placed a hand on the jet.

Golas and other maintenance students who attend any of the 44 Air Education and Training Command worldwide field training detachments, or FTDs, can efficiently step through these and other tasks because they have experienced Classroom 2005.

An initiative from the FTDs' parent unit, the 982nd Training Group at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Classroom 2005 uses interactive white boards hooked into a computer network. The technology allows students to "virtually" experience a host of aircraft system information and maintenance scenarios through animation that brings the printed page to life.

The move to paperless classroom instruction mirrors advances in the field where the Air Force is converting from printed to computerized and networked technical orders maintainers use to repair aircraft.

Golas, from Mount Vernon, Ohio, said he found the Classroom 2005 experience to be very informative and timesaving.

"They aided in ease of understanding of general system knowledge and component location," he said. "Having seen high-quality pictures in the classroom, when we needed to identify components on the actual aircraft, it was second nature."

He added he is confident the interactive classroom technology has prepared him for his duties in the field where he will be able to access technical orders and "visualize, locate and identify the component."

Besides viewing images on the interactive whiteboards, students can interact with the Classroom 2005 system by using a remote mouse, touch screen or by using colored electronic "pens" to actually draw on the board.

"These systems are essentially 67-inch interactive TVs that we use to project computer images into our classrooms," said Senior Master Sgt. Ken Carter, Det. 1 chief. "Our instructors (use) specialized software, along with existing computer programs to build their own personalized presentations. These new projection systems have catapulted us into the 21st century, bringing our classrooms to life, and they're a giant leap forward from the overhead projector of old."

The lessons the Classroom 2005 equipment provides go beyond what traditional textbooks provide.

"The component pictures and accompanying video clips greatly enhance student comprehension of the technical orders," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Whitehead, a KC-10 crew chief who has been teaching at Det. 1 for nearly two years. "For the advanced crew chief transition and troubleshooting students, the flash animated schematics are invaluable to a deeper understanding of system operation and troubleshooting procedures."

The goal of the Classroom 2005 initiative is to have the interactive multimedia networks in place by the end of 2005 at all Air Force FTDs. The McGuire detachment was fully compliant with Classroom 2005 in November.

"Most of my instructors have already built their own paperless presentations," Carter said. "They use a digital camera to take snapshots of KC-10 and C-141 (Starlifter) aircraft, including close-up shots of intricate systems, then load the images in the computer. Text is then added, and the image is projected onto a giant screen."

Instructors get further help in building their computer-based lessons from the application's development element at the 982nd TRG, where software technicians create interactive, animated technical drawings and diagrams.

"These ... drawings are so detailed and realistic, I can teach an entire system right in the classroom," said Master Sgt. Gregg Jonus, production superintendent and a KC-10 electrical and environmental instructor at Det. 1. "The students see pumps turning, switches activating, relays energizing -- all with a touch of the screen. Instead of sitting and watching, the student interacts with the program, turning on the switches and using the colored pens to illustrate specific scenarios."

Setting up a classroom with a projection system and three student workstations costs less than $7,000, Carter said.

"With the generous help of our host unit and by salvaging and upgrading outdated computers, we were able to outfit our entire unit for $105,000," he said.

The financial help in standing up the Classroom 2005 system at McGuire came primarily from the 305th Maintenance Group, whose commander said fully supports the high-tech education his maintainers receive at Det. 1.

"This leap in capability combines the teaching skills of AETC's best training detachment with leading edge technology that enhances the entire learning environment," said Col. Henry Andrews Jr., 305th MXG commander. "In the end, this provides greater combat capability for the warfighter."

It also provides cost savings. Maintaining technical orders and extracts from technical orders on compact disk instead of on paper will save more than $25,000 per year at Det. 1, Carter estimated. (Courtesy of AETC News Service)