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NEWS | Sept. 4, 2019

Virtual reality enhances depot training system for painters

By Ms. Danielle Weinschenk

Recent hi-tech upgrades to a depot training system are earning rave reviews for their "remarkably lifelike" recreation of military asset refinishing operations.

Since 2008, Tobyhanna has used the Spray Technique Analysis and Research for Defense (STAR4D) system, which originated from a University of Northern Iowa program for the automotive refinishing sector. The training aid enables the depot to save money and reduce environmental waste by teaching the correct painting techniques in a classroom setting. This new version of STAR4D utilizes virtual reality and 3D technology, allowing painters to fully immerse themselves in the simulation -- just like a video game. 

"This version of STAR4D is so life-like, it feels like you're really in a paint booth," said Carmelo Rivera, a training instructor in the Resource Management Directorate. Once the simulation is complete, Rivera says the trainees can review their work and get pointers for how to improve next time. The course then continues with two full days of hands-on exercises to further develop painting skills. But the training doesn't stop when students leave the classroom.

"Three months after the training ends, we follow up to assess their progress. We want to make sure they have the support they need to become world-class painters," said Lynwood Turlington, Chief of the Employee Development Division, Resource Management Directorate. 
Depot employees say the STAR4D upgrades have made a huge difference in the impact of the training.

"It is truly fantastic and was well worth the investment. I hope they buy another one so our painters can get even more practice," said Michael Gelderman, a leader in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate's System Paint Branch. Jonathan Gaydos, Chief of the Paint Branch agreed, adding that he believes the enhanced training will help improve paint operations across the organization.

The STAR4D simulation can also provide valuable insight into the depot overhaul process for service members. During a visit to Tobyhanna last month, Sergeant Warren Ford tried out the STAR4D system and was surprised by the experience. 

"It was really amazing," he said. "It's great to see that painters can test it out before they do it for real." 

All Tobyhanna painters will go through the updated STAR4D training within the next few months. Rivera says he hopes to continue improving the class.

"In the near future, we'll update the simulation so the sample assets are actual equipment being worked at Tobyhanna, like the Satellite Transportable Terminal. This is an added step to ensure the warfighter gets a quality product."