Students reap benefits of hi-tech upgrade

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 19/03/2014
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ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
HANDS ON: Auto engineering student Rose Ray and tutor Ross Armitage use new technology at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s applied technology building.

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Classes in the new Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology applied technology building are in full swing, with students learning skills on new and upgraded hi-tech equipment.

The $7.9 million three-storey facility in Hardy St was officially opened last month and was built to cater to engineering and marine-based trades.

NMIT chief executive Tony Gray said aside from having a purpose-built space, they wanted to have the best technology available to the students. He hoped the investment would attract students from outside the Nelson Tasman region to enrol at NMIT.

"It's no good just having the building, we need the infrastructure and resources to go with it."

The new building featured simulation suites that mimic real-world environments and trades workshop areas where students work on real-size projects.

NMIT maritime courses were in the new building and had purpose built rooms to house a new ship simulator, as well as its existing ones.

The programme already had two ship simulation systems, which students would learn navigational and technical skills on.

Programme area leader for maritime, captain Katherine Walker said they offered a range of courses, but were mostly aimed at those who already had sea experience and were looking to upgrade their skills.

She said the equipment was "as modern as you get on any ship".

NMIT has ordered another $700,000 simulator which is expected to be ready for use in July.

"It's an amazing building, but we also need to keep it current with equipment.

"Because ships are becoming more technical, students need to know about the ship's equipment."

She wanted the maritime department to be a "centre of excellence" and students that went through its courses ready to work around the world.

Part of the maritime suite featured a one-way window where tutors could watch students interact as a team to assess how they communicated with each other while using the simulators.

"Simulation is a key part of showing employers competence in what you can do, not just what you know."

Aaron Shallcrass is on a maritime course.

He had been working on fishing boats and wanted to use the course to help him move into the oil and gas industry.

He said the course was hard work, but he expected it to be worth it.

"I hope it will give me more choice and broaden my options," he said.

Automotive trades are also in the building, and students worked on a range of vehicles in a large workshop on the bottom floor - cars from the NMIT fleet would end up there when the fleet was upgraded.

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While students were taught how an engine physically worked and how to fix it, an important component to the mechanical course was analysing the cars' computer systems, particularly in modern cars.

NMIT had invested in new computer analysis tools to read car computers.

Head of Trades David White said even though students still needed to fix engines with their hands, they also had to master technologies for analysis.

The computer databases had to be updated frequently as new cars came on to the market, or car systems changed.

Modern cars had more than 40 different computer systems, he said.

NMIT had invested in Snap On computers which were valued between $4000 and $7000 and were "very easy to use".

Mr White hoped this emphasis on analysis through the computer systems would make its mechanics "more able to readily fix anything".

They would first learn the fundamentals of the cars and then use the computer systems towards the end of their courses.

- Nelson

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