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Immersed in advanced manufacturing

For eight students from the Virtual Reality Education Pathfinders program in Boone, Iowa, the week spent in South Boston, Virginia, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center was eye-opening, and in some cases, career-defining. 

During their visit, the students, who have developed strong skills in virtual reality and 3D modeling and simulation, were immersed into the world of advanced manufacturing and given an opportunity to translate their digital skills to the physical world. Additionally, they received first-hand experience in the SVHEC’s R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency’s process of art to part to mart--the method of taking a product from conceptualization to production and eventually commercialization. 

“It was amazing to see how much goes into linking design to actually engineering the product--art to part to mart. Everything from a pencil to an Intel computer chip goes through that process,” said student Jonathan Clark.

While working in the R&D Center, VREP students were exposed to CNC routers and operation, CNC mill & lathe, reverse engineering, and the SVHEC’s approach to Computer Aided Design. They also visited the Riverstone Energy Center where they explored the Mechdyne Cave (a virtual reality space), and toured Center for Coatings Application, Research, and Education operations.

At the end of the week, students delivered a presentation to local community, education, and business leaders to share their experiences and examples of their work. The students all expressed appreciation for the opportunity to travel to Virginia and spend time immersed in advanced manufacturing at the SVHEC. “It was a really cool week, and it’s definitely making me consider advanced manufacturing as a career where I wasn’t before,” said Nick DeReus a rising senior at Boone High School. Fellow student Seth Woolston stated, “As a high school student to come out here and do college and business level work is going to make a world of difference when we get to college.”  

Beyond providing a unique experience for a group of talented students from Iowa, the advanced manufacturing immersion week was important for demonstrating the key skills needed for effective advanced manufacturing. SVHEC Director of R&D David Kenealy said, “I believe Southern Virginia will be looked at nationally as the place to be and to work. This week starts to bring all of the components that make up manufacturing together in a tangible activity.” Halifax Educational Foundation Chairman Ted Bennett agreed, emphasizing the importance of educational programs like VREP and the Business of Art & Design at the SVHEC that put an emphasis on creativity and problem solving--two of the critical skills needed for today’s American manufacturers to successfully compete in a global economy. 

The Maker’s Focus Immersion Week was made possible by the support of content strategy, production, and consulting firm Kyoger, Virtual Reality Education Pathfinders Program, aerospace pioneer Rockwell Collins, and manufacturing software firm ITI Global. 

For more information about the immersion week or the R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency call 434-572-5557, toll free 1-800-283-0098 ext 5557, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit