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Fife College Students Reach New Heights With World-leading Offshore Wind Training Laboratory

Fife College students are among the first in the world  to benefit from reality technology after the launch of an ‘Immersive Hybrid Reality’ (iHR) lab.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science chats to Fife College engineering student Jamie-Lee Tucker.

The new lab, which provides ultra-realistic training environments for offshore wind turbine technicians, was unveiled by Scottish Government Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP on Thursday 15th June. The enhanced virtual reality system, installed at Fife College’s Rosyth Campus to enhance the training and development of the next generation of offshore wind turbine technicians, allows students to conduct detailed fault-finding inspections of the top of a virtual 7 megawatt offshore wind turbine, based on ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine.

The unique hybrid element combines the real and virtual worlds, allowing users to see their own hands and feet, real tools or manuals, whilst seemingly at t​he top of the turbine, over 110m above the waves. Combined with the sounds of the wind and changing weather conditions, it provides one of the most realistic training environments anywhere in the world.

The iHR system has been developed by the Energy Skills Partnership, Heriot-Watt University and Middlesbrough-based visualisation specialists, Animmersion UK, in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. The first phase has created a top-of-turbine inspection, with phase two to develop an inspection of the inside working of the turbine now well underway.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said: “I am delighted to announce £50,000 of funding to the Energy Skills Partnership to continue and expand their excellent work. The Scottish Government is keen to support and celebrate the development of this ‎immersive hybrid reality lab as it represents a tremendous opportunity to develop the skills and jobs required by the growing offshore renewables industry in Scotland. 

“The lab promotes learning through exciting new technology ensuring that students are able to experience work activities within realistic site conditions, and as result learn without facing real health and safety risks.

“It is important that we continue to develop a workforce that is properly skilled and one that is familiar with new technologies and innovative practices that lead the way. It will no doubt be the skills and confidence of our workforce that help us build a stronger economy going forward and it is therefore right that we continue to invest in projects like this.”

Nicky Inglis, Head of Department for Engineering and Technologies at Fife College is excited about the launch of the Hybrid Reality lab and the opportunities this offers Fife College students. Said Nicky: “We are delighted to be a partner in this amazing new technology and to open this fantastic new lab in our campus at Rosyth. The iHR system is as close to reality as you can get which will enable our students to really feel what it is like to work on a wind turbine up to 110 metres above the ground or waves.

“Working at an extreme height is a very unique experience - using Immersive Hybrid Reality (iHR) means we can combine real and virtual worlds to offer training that is second to none in a safe environment. Our new lab will benefit both wind turbine and our other engineering students, over 200 in total per year with scope to capture additional commercial clients.

“Fife College is committed to ensuring that our students benefit from the latest technology to aid their training, skills and future employment. This new lab is sector leading and an excellent example of our commitment to train engineers of the future for great careers and in turn benefit the Scottish economy.” 

Director of the Energy Skills Partnership, Jim Brown, said “With 25% of Europe’s total offshore wind resource, Scotland has a tremendous opportunity to develop the skills and expertise to design, install and maintain the energy industries of tomorrow.

“The Immersive Hybrid Reality turbine, developed with Heriot Watt, Animmersion and ORE Catapult, provides us with a genuinely world-leading facility for the development of the vital talent that we will need to seize upon that opportunity”.

Engineering student Jamie-Lee Tucker, (16) from Dunfermline was one of the first students to experience the new lab and to meet the Minister and share her views about the new lab. Said Jamie-Lee: “Experiencing immerse hybrid reality is just amazing and extremely real - I felt like I was really at the top a wind turbine in the wind and above the waves. I think this technology will be really popular with our students giving them a great insight into what it is like to work at heights and also help them train and secure jobs in the future – it’s really exciting!​

Hugh Hall, Principal of Fife College; student Jamie-Lee Tucker and Nicky Inglis, Head of Engineering and Technologies
Dr Enrique Valero and Dr Frederic Bosche from Heriot Watt University; Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science; Hugh Hall, Principal of Fife College and Jamie-Lee Tucker Engineering student
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