New simulator brings unique learning opportunity to Columbus

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COFFEYVILLE, Ks. — Local students are getting a hands-on learning opportunity that’s the first of its kind in Southeast Kansas.

This looks like a video game, but it is definitely not easy.

To help attract a younger generation that grew up playing video games, the construction industry is turning to simulators that replicate jobs done by heavy equipment.

Kurtis Engroff, Student, said, “I feel more confident after being on this machine.”

Students in the Commercial Construction Program at Coffeyville Community College’s Columbus Campus are getting a unique learning opportunity.

Kevin Hunt, Construction Technology Instructor, said, “You don’t want to put them on a multi-thousand dollar piece of equipment and have them smacking a truck like we saw a few minutes ago and creating damage.”

The college has purchased a Mobile Caterpillar Heavy Equipment Simulator. The simulator acts just like the actual equipment would, so students experience exactly what they would if they were on a job site.

“Everything is operated with joysticks now so knowing what hand and what direction does what it very important.”

These tools students use are from a live excavator now while this much like a video game, these tools can be used in real life.

“It’s all based on hydraulics the seats act as the real piece of equipment would. If they’re driving down a slope or unloading it from the trailer, it will actually tilt forward as they go down or tilt back if they’re loading the trailer.”

“First time I did it, I didn’t know any of the controls, and then I had to learn all of the controls, but this is my second week doing it, so it’s getting pretty easy,” said Engroff.

The $74,000 simulator was purchased through a collaborative effort between the Kansas Board of Regents, the college, and Crossland Construction Company.

Kari Soper, Director, said, “There’s no other program like it in this area so it’s kind of it’s own entity right now.”

Hunt also says Crossland has a shortage of heavy equipment operators and training students in this area could help that.

Training using the CAT simulator will begin in the fall.

Engroff says he feels more prepared to learn more and possibly pursue a career in commercial construction.

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