NICC Partners with Design Mill to create Virtual Reality Safety Simulator

A conversation between Northeast Iowa Community College and computer programming leaders at Design Mill, Inc., of Dubuque has led to development of a new self-propelled sprayer virtual reality (VR) driving simulator for agricultural safety.

Directors from the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) at the College’s Peosta campus partnered with Design Mill to develop the VR simulator. Using real tractor hardware, the virtual reality experience simulates the operator’s visibility while operating a 70’ to 110’ sprayer boom, as well as simulate boom arm physics motions and controls from a seated position in the simulator. This provides practical training before operating expensive and potentially dangerous equipment.

During the process, Design Mill programmers visited with an agricultural equipment dealer to gain additional insights into what videos, or scenarios, should be incorporated into the simulation equipment to enhance its realism. Greiner estimated that the coding and testing work to design the unit and eight different VR scenarios took about three months, he said.

Thatcher Block, director of safety and compliance for Innovative Ag Services and a member of the NECAS board of directors, highlighted the importance of collaboration between educators, agricultural leaders, and private industry, and how teamwork can defray costs and ultimately impact farm safety in the community.

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