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HK civil technician trainees using VR training simulators

Image Credits: HKSAR Government, Press Release

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Electrical & Mechanical Services Department, a state-of-the-art Interactive Learning Centre was built.

Launched in September 2018, the centre applies innovation and technology to talent training. Some of its training modules apply virtual reality (VR) technology to provide a realistic experience of maintaining engineering systems such as seaport passenger boarding bridges.

A Technician Trainee at the Electrical & Mechanical Services Department stated that as the Passenger Boarding Bridges at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal are in the restricted area, the VR training simulator can help with maintenance practice first.

Technician is able to understand the maintenance steps and safety procedures. This enables them to be more confident about going to work in the Cruise Terminal.

Realistic scenarios

A trainee demonstrating the use of the VR system

Two trainees, who joined the department as technician trainees in 2016, take turns in carrying out repair work on electrical and mechanical (E&M) facilities in different government buildings.

They have been using VR training to hone their skills for operating a hospital’s boiler system.

One scenario they are trained for is the known as the “water-hammer effect” – this is when condensation in a pipe builds up around a pocket of steam, turning it into the water so rapidly that it creates a force strong enough to break the pipe.

It was noted that trainee mentors advise trainees that they need to open the valve slowly to prevent the water-hammer effect.

By using the VR system trainees can see what the water-hammer effect is. They can see the pipe burst and spray steam in virtual reality, which reminds them of the advice given by their mentors.

Risk-free training

The Interactive Learning Centre covers an area of 800 square metres and is currently training around 700 technicians. It applies innovation and technology to enable trainees to practise procedures in a safe environment and raise their safety awareness.

The Senior Engineer in the Electrical & Mechanical Services Department highlighted the advantages of using VR training simulators.

It was noted that trainees can learn various E&M equipment without affecting the normal operation of the buildings, and also without wasting any consumables. The most difficult part lies with the work the programme designer does in providing the software for the virtual reality training simulators.

Another outstanding training feature is a hologram projection system which delivers 3D images of E&M equipment. This is especially useful for learning about facilities which are not easily accessible and helps trainees become familiar with the actual work environment and enhance their efficiency.

Trainees feel happy about this centre because there is a new way to learn and to pick up new knowledge. They find it very interesting and it is easier to learn, plus they can share all the experience with other trainees.

There are two Cave Automatic Virtual Environment systems at the centre. The system displays an authentic view of Hong Kong Children’s Hospital and Tin Shui Wai Hospital through the application of Building Information Modelling-Asset Management technology.

By providing realistic scenarios through technology, the trainees can increase their understanding of government buildings and installations including their technical details such as operating principles and structural plans.

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