HxGN LIVE and the importance of inspiring educators

“You never stop learning” is undoubtedly true for most people. But for educators this can be extended a little to “You never stop learning about learning.”

Anyone close to somebody in this profession knows that educators are always looking for a new angle or approach that will open up avenues to connect with, and inspire, their students. Whether that is a new text or strategy, these little wins all work together to help pitch a subject area just right and transform students’ learning.

For technical colleges, it is also vital the courses reflect the reality of the industry they are training students to enter. And with the pace of technology advancements in many industries, including manufacturing, this is not always an easy challenge to meet.

So how can education institutions ensure the next generation of engineers is prepared to use advanced equipment to their full capability and also be open to the full range of potential applications in a range of industries?

A rich history of excellence

Back in 2017, Hexagon announced a partnership with Fullerton College, based in Orange County. The oldest continually running college in California, Fullerton offers the only community college-level metrology certificate program in the state. Through the partnership, Hexagon has supplied software such as PC-DMIS, SURFCAM, and hardware including CMMs and Absolute Arms.

The metrology course offered by Fullerton College is an extension of its machine tool program. Students learn a range of skills including using machine tools, CNC machine set-up and operation, advanced CNC programming using SURFCAM CAM software, and theory of measurement.

The metrology program is helmed by Dan O’Brien who had identified a growing need for machinists to get specialist training to use new, more advanced equipment that was becoming more widespread in manufacturing industries. Equipment and software such as Hexagon’s Absolute Arms and PC-DMIS are crucial to preparing students for their future careers as they are considered industry standards. Dan O’Brien explains: “We have 12 Absolute Arms with integrated laser scanners, we have the software and we have the CMMs and vision inspection systems. It’s really important that the students get hands-on experience with the same exact tools they will be using in their careers.”

Student at Fullerton College using portable measuring arm from Hexagon.

A Fullerton College student using one of their 12 measuring arms from Hexagon.

But which career to choose from? The explosion of scanning technology has opened up incredible new opportunities for interested individuals, as Fullerton College Dean of Technology and Engineering, Ken Starkman, highlighted: “If you think about measurement, metrology and the Hexagon platforms, you can think about each one of our [15] departments like a bead and metrology is the thread, so it literally ties all of these disciplines together.”

Fullerton College is innovating in this space by taking a completely holistic approach to their metrology program departments, showcasing the enormous range of disciplines where metrology plays a key role: “One of the challenges we have is that metrology isn’t really well known. So it’s really our job to convince people that understanding measurement technology and all the tools and gizmos that go along with it are extremely important,” said Ken Starkman.

With 15 departments to cater for, technology events are a perfect opportunity to rapidly explore the latest solutions on the marketplace for each sector. One event that is now an automatic addition to the Fullerton team’s calendar is HxGN LIVE. It has been such a powerful source of information for Fullerton that much of the current metrology content is based on technology the team saw at the previous HxGN LIVE event.

Ken Starkman explains: “When you actually attend this conference, that’s really when you can see the Hexagon platform and as well how this technology starts to cut through all these different disciplines and market sectors and that’s what [Drone Lab Director] Jay’s vision was when we drove back from the conference last year. We realised we really need to take that platform and drive it through the college here and get our students engaged with things like LiDAR and thermal mapping in their own disciplines.”

Jay Seidel is professor and director of the Fullerton Drone Lab at Fullerton College. Fullerton started their drone program two years ago, and it has really taken off (pun intended). HxGN LIVE has been an important factor in the development of the program, as Jay explains: “Last year was my first time at HxGN LIVE while I was building the program and it really opened my eyes to how things are used. And coming from the drone side, trying to make things easier and people more efficient through robotic systems. That’s when we got into 3D scanning and LiDAR. So here at the show last year we contacted Hexagon’s Geosystems team and it kind of grew from there. From that we integrated a BLK2FLY, a BLK ARC and the Cyclone software. HxGN LIVE really helped in the development of the programming just to see other places we can go.”

Capturing the reality of crime scenes

Another sector where the college has introduced new metrology applications is crime scene investigations. Kelly Robertson is Professor & Department Coordinator, Administration of Justice, and she related her experience attending HxGN LIVE for the first time and how the technology from Hexagon’s Geosystems division has helped develop the curriculum: “We came with our teams to HxGN LIVE and I left with so much inspiration due to the technology, due to Hexagon and the platforms, and due to the deliverables that they have for all of us.”

With skills shortages creating significant issues in multiple sectors, technology has a huge role to play in negating the impact. This can be achieved through automating some processes but also making technology more user-friendly, supporting training and attracting new people into roles that are currently hard to fill: “One of the things that I took away was something I knew was missing. And this is also what the labour market is showing us – the increase in the need for CSI investigators and forensic technicians. From that, Ken and I put together our new state-of-the-art crime scene facility on campus as a result of attending HxGN LIVE last year. And now all of the CSI investigators and forensic technicians in Orange County are using our facility as their training site. Needless to say, we’re very happy about this and we’re going to continue working with Hexagon very closely,” said Kelly Robertson.

A crucible of next-generation technology

Education establishments such as Fullerton College are critical to ensuring a healthy flow and development of well-trained engineers entering industry. And with Hexagon’s support for colleges and universities through technology partnerships and events such as HxGN LIVE Global, the future of multiple industries will continue to be in safe hands.

HxGN LIVE Global is a digital reality technology event series built for the future, providing access to Hexagon’s latest sensor, software and autonomous technologies. The goal is to empower pioneers across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, safety and mobility applications to put data to work.

Keep up to date with reports from the most recent event and the latest news on the upcoming edition here: https://hexagon.com/resources/events/hxgn-live-global

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