Ever consider an automotive career but don’t know where to start because you have no prior experience? Maybe this will be the solution one day.
Intro to Self
As a graduate student at the University of Central Florida, I am constantly being challenged to seek out new and creative solutions to topics of interest. This semester, I have been tasked with developing a training solution founded in modeling and simulation principles, working with a topic of my choosing.
Naturally, this course excited my creative instincts and challenged me to think critically about my interests for a potential project. Although it took some time for me to develop a clear image of what my topic would be on and what my final project would look like, I found myself loving the idea of developing training for automotive technicians.
Looking into my history ever-so-briefly (more here), I have been performing automotive work for over ten years. While only a year of that time was spent working in a shop while training in a Toyota T-Ten program at a community college, I continued to perform automotive maintenance and performance modifications independently. However, with my recent studies in instructional design, I found an opportunity to critically evaluate the learning environment that I had experienced in my early automotive technology training. Ultimately, this is the basis for inspiration on this modeling and simulation project.
Intro to Concept
Why develop a training program for automotive technicians? Simple. Individuals can find it challenging to transition into a new career in automotive technology without former experience in the field. Despite this, if your passion is automotive technology and you desire to have a career in the industry, but you do not have any professional experience in the field, you should not be denied a starting point into the industry. In higher education, we are constantly encouraging students to pursue their career and academic dreams, and it is no different here.
What does the job outlook look like? Slightly above average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. What makes this industry great is that automobiles will continued to be used for the foreseeable future, creating job security. It should also be noted that this is a skill-trade industry that has a mix of no education requirements, to those with an associate of science in automotive technology or even higher.
The concept of this program is targeted at these types of people, and is tailored to their situation. It is unrealistic to ask someone who is working to attend a popular private automotive program when they may have a family to support. However, it is reasonable for someone like this to complete online training, followed by a practical application of knowledge. This program is designed to provide an opportunity for individuals to gain relevant experience and knowledge in the industry, and provide them a doorway into a new career.
Why use a modeling and simulation approach? Working in automotive technology is more than having a knowledge base. It requires highly functional critical thinking skills using the knowledge of automotive technology, combined with the application of object manipulation and creative problem solving solutions through critical thinking. By using a simulator, the learners are capable of applying their knowledge from course content while practicing and developing their critical thinking skills.
The Program Looks Like This:
To explain this flowchart, once the individual has been accepted into the program, they will acquire knowledge through an online learning management system such as BlackBoard. They will then complete modules in the program based on various topics in automotive technology, and apply their learning through critical thinking applications in a game. The game engine runs off of Java, and simply requires an internet connection and web browser. They must then evaluate their methods of critical thinking combined with knowledge and discuss it amongst their peers through internet discussion forums.
After the learner has completed all of the modules, midterm, and final, they must successfully complete an internship with a partnered automotive shop. Upon successful completion of the internship and content in the program, the learner will be granted a certificate. This certificate will provide them with demonstrated professional experience that they can list on their resume, and may even lead to a full time position through the internship experience.
As mentioned previously, job placement in automotive technology can be extremely difficult for individuals without a professional background in the field. But why might this be? One suggestion is that employers do not want to hire someone who may not be familiar with technical terminology, literacy in reading manuals, and the ability to accurately follow complex instructions. While conducting a literature review, I discovered a journal publication by Parkinson and Mackay (2016) that identified the application of technical literacy being one of the greatest reasons behind vocational education. Parkinson and Mackay’s (2016) research indicated that pedagogy for automotive technology must include complex technical writings and diagrams, combined with the familiarity of automotive components. As a result, the program being developed holds an emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge through instructor lead readings and discussions with application and interpretation in the learning game.
Despite the aforementioned supporting the need for applied learning in automotive technology, why choose simulation? Additional literature was sourced to support the cause for simulation design. According to Landicho and their colleagues (2017), gamification can be an extremely useful tool for learners to apply concepts. Their research found that gamification is most successful when the instructor creates a detailed syllabus that identifies key points and topics within the game design, and links the content back to the module’s discussion (Landicho et. al., 2017). The project has incorporated this practice by each learning module focusing on a specific topic, with the simulation game covering that same topic and embedded in the learning management system. Through the instructor content and the class discussions, students will be consistently learning the material through multiple channels.
Support by Subject Matter Expert
In an effort to ensure the validity of this program’s construction and the accuracy of content, I have enlisted the assistance of a subject matter expert (SME). Although he currently does not wish for me to disclose his name publicly until there is a more finalized project, he is ASE certified and owns an automotive shop in the Clearwater region of Florida. Through our discussions and interviews, he has provided me with insight on how a shop owner thinks. He confirmed my accusation about employability being difficult for newcomers in the industry, but ensured that any amount of professional application in automotive technology is an instant bonus on a resume. As I will discuss in another blog post or podcast, it is your resume that gets you the interview; and your application of experience combined with interpersonal skills that gets you the job.
The SME pointed out a few concerns in the concept, including the utilization of internships. His first concern was how the partnerships will be established. I addressed this by emphasizing that if the program is housed out of a state community college, then the college has connections and resources already established within the community that they can call upon. Creating a partnership between a private business and a state community college is beneficial to both parties.
His second concern was the time needed for the learners to be present for the internships. My suggestion for this is to find shops that are open six days a week, allowing the learner an opportunity to complete their hours during one of those days. While this does require the learner to potentially work six days, that is the only feasible way for them to complete their hours required in training. Additionally, it is not uncommon for automotive technicians to work six days a week, and this provides them an exposure to that lifestyle.
The SME agreed to these solutions, and found them to be reasonable enough.
Current Progress and Future Implications
Currently, an initial proposal and design document has been drafted to portray the concepts and goals. I have designed the flowchart of one simple exercise in the game engine and have begun to fill out the dialogue and edit the necessary images. Presently, I have received positive feedback on the direction of this project, and intend for a complete draft and proof of concept in the game to be ready for viewing no later than August 1st, 2017. Below is an example of the paths in the demo game.
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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
Parkinson, J., & Mackay, J. (2016). The literacy practices of vocational training in carpentry and automotive technology. Journal Of Vocational Education And Training, 68(1), 33-50.
Landicho, J. j., Dela Cerna, A. A., Marapao, J. G., Balhin, G. P., & Paid, R. M. (2017). Hortari: A gamification application for engaged teaching and learning in higher education. Journal of E-Learning & Knowledge Society, 13(1), 181-187.
One thought on “Concepts for an Automotive Technology Program & Simulator”
Your post makes me want to return to college and pursue the automotive technician curriculum. Very clever use of modeling and simulation for a significant need. America runs on our love of cars. All the best! Dr. Truman