EICC receives $780,000 grant



Outside shot of the ATEEC buildingEastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) has officially received notice that it will receive a more than $780,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant, totaling $784,218, will be spread out over a three-year period through the end of June, 2020. It will be administered by the college’s Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC) and is for a project entitled “Water Intense: Interactive Technology Education”.

“The main focus of the grant will be developing a virtual reality education curriculum for water, wastewater and agriculture technologies and conservation,” said Ellen Kabat Lensch, EICC Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development. “Once completed, we will share that curriculum with two-year colleges across the nation.”

This is not the first time the college has received grants for similar work. For example, it recently completed an extensive curriculum development project in the advanced manufacturing field.

“Through our ATEEC program we have been developing curriculum for both colleges and high schools, in many different subject areas, for at least two decades,” Kabat Lensch said. “We’re very proud to have the National Science Foundation and others look to us for this work.”

In this project EICC will be working with its partners at the virtual reality company, EON Reality. EON is an international leader in virtual and augmented reality with global presence in the United States, Sweden, Singapore and England.

The college began offering a virtual reality training academy for students last year. The 11-month program provides the training students need to begin careers developing virtual reality training tools for manufacturing, health and other industries.

This project specifically focuses on water and wastewater technician jobs that are growing faster than average. This comes amid concerns about source water availability, aging infrastructure, water quality and workforce issues.

Technology training in the water/wastewater and agriculture areas with the required equipment is often prohibitively expensive, time consuming and constrained by safety concerns. This makes it impossible for colleges to provide students with access to equipment with which to experience hands-on training.

Educators in these fields often lack instructional methods that allow for hands-on training, and even when it is available it is cost-prohibitive.

This project helps make training more affordable by creating a curriculum for virtual reality-based training. With the proper equipment, students can practice the essential hands-on skills they need repeatedly without having to turn to potentially expensive, and sometimes hazardous, options out in the field. In addition, as technologies change over time, the virtual reality programs can be adapted to keep pace with those changes.

More information about ATEEC can be found on the college’s website at www.eicc.edu/ateec Information about the EON Reality virtual training program is at www.eicc.edu/eon