Marcin Kasica, director of global education and training with EON Reality, demonstrates a virtual reality application that could help in workplace training, during a demonstration in January at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges' ATEEC Lab in Davenport.

Kevin E. Schmidt, QUAD-CITY TIMES file photo

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, based in Davenport, has secured a national grant for its virtual reality job training program.

National Science Foundation awarded the $784,218 grant, which will be paid out over three years. The focus of the grant is "Water Intense: Interactive Technology Education," which will explore ways to use virtual technology in various jobs that involve water quality and conservation.

Once a study of water, wastewater, and agricultural technologies and conservation measures is completed, the results will be shared with two-year colleges across the United States, said Ellen Kabat Lensch, chancellor for workforce and economic development.

EICC's previous National Science Foundation grants were used locally to develop extensive curriculum in the advanced manufacturing field.

The grant will be used by the community colleges (Scott Community College, Bettendorf and Davenport; Clinton Community College, Clinton, and Muscatine Community College, Muscatine) and Eon Reality, a partner since 2016. 

The downtown Davenport campus first featured virtual technology in 2016, at which time the partnership was announced. Eon Reality is based in California and has a global presence.

The 11-month virtual reality project will focus on water and wastewater technician jobs that are growing at a fast rate in this country.

It comes amid concerns about water source availability, aging infrastructure, water quality and workforce issues.

According to college officials, technology training in these areas is often very expensive, time-consuming and constrained by safety concerns. It is difficult for most colleges to provide the hands-on job training in a cost-effective manner, and virtual-reality-based training may be one affordable and effective training option.

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