A feature project at the government’s National College for Nuclear (NCfN) Southern Hub, is the development of an innovative curriculum based on a physical replica of aspects of a nuclear station, and virtual reality simulation.
The College will provide physical, virtual and augmented reality technology to create a learning environment that replicates the licenced nuclear workplace. It will enable the provision of ‘live’ projects in areas such as Radiation Protection and Nuclear Maintenance, at a mixture of study levels and from a variety of vocational disciplines. The nature of the facility enables specialist technical operations and industry behaviours to be trialled, rehearsed and perfected in a safe and risk-free setting, creating a highly-trained, professional, technical workforce for the Nuclear sector.
The developing project includes a virtual reality replica heat exchange system that models the twin flow loops for heating and cooling found in a nuclear power plant. Learners will be able to carry out research, investigations, maintenance and repairs in a risk-free environment, following an innovative, project-based curriculum. The VR application will be used through an HTC Vive VR headset, which supports room-spaced VR, enabling users to physically walk in a virtual scene.
The curriculum has been developed in conjunction with industry partners including EDF, Areva NP UK and Rotork, and there will be a minimum of five virtual reality and ten physical learning projects which will be developed, tested and reviewed. Two trusts (Ufi Charitable Trust and the Edge Foundation) are providing the larger part of the funding for this project, the criteria of which will ensure that the needs of industry, learners, and curriculum are taken into account, with regular consultation between industrial partners and curriculum colleagues to ensure that the design of the physical rig and virtual reality software meets their requirements.
Learning projects will be regularly reviewed, conducted with engineers from the College’s technology partners and with members of the NCfN board members. Further learning projects will be developed to expand the College’s offer, from April 2019.