FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The PVCC Workforce Services program has purchased an augmented reality machine to help welding students learn in a safer environment before doing the real thing.
Piedmont Virginia Community College holds its welding classes at the Virginia School of Metal in Fluvanna County.
In early June, a brand new augmented reality welding machine arrived at the shop, courtesy of the community college.
"It's one more tool in the toolbox. It's an incredible tool. The future is here and it's now," said Steven Brownell, President of the Virginia School of Metal.
Brownell says the augmented reality machine is harder to use than doing the real thing and he's fine with that.
"This is designed to make you a perfect welder," he said. "As close to perfect as you can get. It's augmented reality, which is one step up from virtual reality."
Even though the machine has only been in use for a couple weeks, students have already become big fans.
"It feels different as there's less resistance but other than that, it's pretty much the same," said Hunter Sveadeba, a PVCC student looking to get into underwater welding.
A big difference between the new machine and the real thing is the level of safety involved. For that reason, Brownell says he'll have all first-time students start on the augmented reality machine before switching over.
"There's no UV rays, there's no flame, there's nothing, there's no metal puddle, there's no sparks. You can't get hurt on this," said Brownell.
Workforce Services of PVCC is always searching for new ways to get students into higher paying jobs without going into debt.
The college offers several programs that can with financial aid. One is called "Fast Forward" and it involves the state paying for more than half of the class.
"The student pays one-third of the cost when they register and when they complete the class, get a grade, the state pays one-third," said Valerie Palamountain, Dean of Workforce Services at PVCC. "Then the final third is paid by the state when the student earns a credential."
The college is already using augmented and virtual reality in other classes, such as the commercial driver's license program.
It hopes to be able to add this kind of technology to other programs,, such as health care, in the future.