Ashley Stowe with Y-12 National Security Complex

Industrial Talk is onsite at the OMG Quarterly Standards Meeting and chatting with Ashley Stowe, Director of Enhanced Technology Training Center at Oak Ridge Y-12 National Security Complex about “Improving training outcomes for our First Responders using Virtual Reality”. Tune in and hear more about the importance of the latest in Virtual Reality Standards and Ashley's unique insights on this Industrial Talk.

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Welcome to the Industrial Talk podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's get alright once


again, thank you very much for joining Industrial Talk. And thank you for your support, go out, subscribe to the channel and get the latest and greatest on in people who have insights that you need to know you need to continue to learn. You need to continue to collaborate, and definitely you need to innovate. And that's why this platform is here because you are bold. brave dare greatly we celebrate you each and every day. And as you can tell, this is early morning. Nobody around, but we are and at OMG q1 meeting in Reston, Virginia. And it's always a joy, to be able to interact with some of the biggest thinkers within industry and helping to solve problems. It's a lot of fun in the hot seat we have Ashley stone, Oak Ridge. Okay, I'm going to do this Oak Ridge enhance Technology and Training Center. That's what we're talking about. We're talking probably enhanced augmented reality and so on and anything that I'd like to talk about, so let's get cracking.


Ashley's a newbie,


only been with area in with


the area about four years,


four years. You're not a newbie I misunderstood?


Well, according to a lot of the folks here I'm a newbie.


Yeah, that's true. Some of them it's like when did you join back in 1923? And I go, No, they don't go back that don't don't.


They don't go back. They go back far, but not that far. Is it a good conference? Or no,


this is a meeting?


Yes, it is an excellent meeting. already made connections so far. And I've been here for about 20 minutes.


Yeah, look at that. So with that said, give us a little background on who actually is for the the listener?


Let's see.


Dr. Excuse me, Dr. Rational?


Yeah, there you go. So I do have a PhD in chemistry, which is completely useless for augmented reality. I've wandered through the Department of Energy Lab systems, my whole career. C group grew up in South Carolina, mostly playing baseball and chasing girls as you do, and played college ball at Fordham University, blew up my shoulder and decided I needed to figure out what being a grownup look like. So I chased after chemistry, went to Florida State for that worked in quantum computing materials, and then joined the National Lab system, that Pacific Northwest National Lab and Savannah River National Lab, working on hydrogen storage materials for cars. Again, none of that has anything to do with virtual or augmented reality. And then about 15 years ago, came to a place called y 12. And Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which is actually a nuclear weapons plant. And through all of those steps, I was doing innovation, I was creating new things and through a long and winding road that helped me to you had


to throw that out there. You know where I went?


That's right. So I joke with, with students, I talked to students quite often. And I tell them that so I grew up in in South Carolina and getting from South Carolina to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is about three hours you drive over the Smoky Mountains, it took me seven years and 20,000 miles plus three kids, three degrees, etc. So you know, it's a straight road looking back, but it was very winding along that that route. So. But in all of those opportunities, it's been what can I do to create something new that no one's ever done to make a difference? And that's kind of been the commonality across all the opportunities I've had and, and that's led me to this new training center that we've built at Whitesville just opened actually January 9 of this year, called the Oak Ridge enhanced Technology and Training Center.


Why are why is your organization interested in augmented or enhanced reality? What What benefits does that bring to your your efforts?


Well, so, why 12 has been why to have actually came out of the Manhattan Project in Oakridge, and we still maintain our mission of being the uranium production site for nuclear weapons. What that means is we have 80 years of experience handling nuclear materials, high hazard materials, and now with nuclear medicine, some of those types of materials are being used for good and there are out in in the world, in hospitals and research reactors on the university campuses. And that kind of training, how do you deal with those hazards is not part of the typical training that a first responder would get a police officer in a local union? No, not at all. In fact, yeah, exactly. And so


that's an absolute gap. Yeah. So


we fill that gap. And of course, we don't want our police officers, our University on site security, to be around these high hazard materials, radioactive sources, etc. And so we use virtual reality, augmented reality and various types of extended reality combinations, to give them the realism without bringing that hazard in front of them. We used to teach with PowerPoint. And so we joked that we would give a four hour course and go through 200 PowerPoint slides. And if anyone's awake, they get a gold star,


or if anyone doesn't have bleeding ears? Yeah,


that's right. Oh, yeah. So now we get rid of most of the PowerPoint, and we get them up and put their hands on things. And we walk them into realistic situations. And we talked to them about what the hazard is, we show them that in radiation, exposure, the distance is very important. And so we show them what stepping a little bit farther away does to the dose that they might receive, we can have, we can pull up the detector and have them move around, walk towards it, walk away from it, what behind something that shields and they can see for themselves, what their behaviors do to protect themselves. And then we put all these things together in scenarios where we're all talking around a virtual tabletop, so that if a bad guys in our you know, we create a scenario where a bad guy tries to go take the source out of a gamma knife and a hospital, when we talk about, okay, police officers, how Where are you going to put your your forces? Who are you going to talk to the dispatcher? How are you going to communicate? And then once they talk through their scenario, they place their characters there. Then we run the simulation and we see how well they did. And then of course, the final part is we bring it back to real life, we actually have paid actors that come in and act as role players and we use our entire building as the prop. And they go running through the building. Actors being the bad guys, the participants in the class doing the job they would do every day. And then we talk about what worked, what didn't work, and then we run it again.


Oh, yeah, I got a I got a question.


With that said, you've got this sort of virtual world that you're using as a way of educating on something that's quite important. That's one, but how long did it take for your organization to sort of prop that up to my wearing goggles, and what talk to us about that?


Well, so this is actually kind of interesting, we use a different technology set, depending on what we're trying to do. So in some cases, we have a nine foot tall, 45 foot wide LED wall that runs on a gaming engine. And so we can bring everyone and pull it up on the screen. And with an iPad interacting, and we can talk through so everybody can see what's going on. In other cases, when we're actually running a tabletop. Everyone goes into augmented reality, and they're all looking down as they're moving around the same physical space at a digital, sort of third person view looking down on a building. And then we can we have an instructor that talks through and facilitates each of the stages that we're working through. Here's the building, here's what it looks like. Now, there's a an assailant that has entered the building and you see that action happening in the digital sort of game engine. And then we have the opportunity to add characters for each of the participants on the board. They move around, they talk about it. And so we use augmented reality. In that set. Other cases, we actually do green screen technology. And we'll bring have the participants film their own facility back wherever they are around the country. And then we take that into green screen space and have our subject matter experts and our role players go running through that space and record videos way. Yeah, so it's great because it takes you from the theoretical the little bit of PowerPoint you do takes you hands on in a generic building. How Would you respond, and then all of a sudden you see the realism of their bad guys running through your facility. And that changes the way you think that changes the way that you interact. You sit up and pay attention, because that's your house. And then finally, we put all that together in a real life. Everybody's running around the building, trying to protect it. And then we outreach at every stage. And that's just kind of one set of courses that we did.


How many students are you engaged with over? First off? How long has this been in? In Action? So this whole approach, and then how many students? I would, I would just absolutely die to get to see that. And to be a part of that. And it's just like, yes, I would imagine there's a big draw.


Yeah, so we've been teaching that course for well over a decade, we only started bringing the extended reality components in with COVID. Because we used to bring everyone into our facility. Before we had this brand new senator, we used y 12 itself and had had a facility on site for that, that we shared. With COVID. No one could travel, we couldn't bring people together. So we had to figure out a way to engage them back home spread out across the country. And so we started in a conference room with Zoom like everyone else. And we very quickly went to green screen technology, and then brought in the augmented reality headsets. And so we have it set up to where we can send the headsets to the participant location, and bring them in with our instructors in our building in Oak Ridge. And we all of a sudden drop into the same space. So it's the kind of thing that you see the commercials for with metta and everything else. We're bringing everyone together, even though they're physically not. And then creating immersion in a way that we can talk about how they would respond, what the hazards are, and they can see it in in digital real life. But it has that level of immersion, that you will remember it.


So don't don't gloss over that. Because one of the questions I have, how do you measure success? Have you seen a an improvement? How do you measure that success?


So that's kind of interesting, right? We're training people on high consequence, low occurrence. scenarios. Yeah. So by definition, they don't happen very often. So how do you measure whether or not someone is improving in their response? So I've mentioned one class, we actually have a second series, kind of that 201 level course, that you where we send our folks out to you and we do a drill and exercise at your facility. Now, you know, we're coming. But we challenge your tactics that we've taught you. And, but we do it live in your place. And we're actually Brent, we used to hire row players and send them all out, or now, deploying an augmented reality solution where we have the, I'll say, bad guy injects built into the augmented reality. And we go through, map your facility, and then hit play on the simulation. And we can make a fire breakout, we can make someone run out of a physical door, even though it's a digital bad guy. And so you're responding without needing to shut down the hospital without needing to shut down the research reactor because it's just someone in a headset, and they have a joystick, which controls the character, but it allows them to respond to practice while normal operations are going on. I have so much fun.


I'm salivating here. I'm sorry for stuttering and stammering because I'm just my head is swimming with just things. How do you see or where do you see it going? I mean, I mean, you're pretty much cutting edge right now. What do you see happening?


Well, so one of the things that I think we're right now we're on the, in the Wild West, right? Yeah. You know, we're pushing the envelope and trying everything. And I think the industry as a whole is beginning to wrestle with the technologies emerging to the point we can start asking questions, what's the right solution for the right use case? And I think that's really where we're gonna see a lot of developments over the next next few years. not throw this technology at everything, but really start to build a tool set of I use augmented reality. In this scenario, I use virtual reality. In that scenario, I add in haptics so that you can touch into haptics. Okay, so So haptics is a device that allows the the physical human to get some sort of feedback from a digital object. Yeah. So we have a research project. Now we're partnering with the company haptics on a pair of gloves, that when you go in, pick something up in the digital universe, you feel that it's Ready Player One. That's exactly right. So it is, yeah. So I tell people all the time, we were in between Tony Stark and Iron Man, yeah. And Ready Player One. And so we're looking at what's the right technology? When do you use it. And so using a joystick is great if all you're doing is clicking through things, or you're you're exercising your mind. When you need mechanical motion, that you're trying to get the muscle memory taut. Like manufacturing settings, you need to be able to feet touch and feel and interact with digital objects, as those are, they're physically there. And so we have a project now where we're helping some of our manufacturing folks internally, and we're building a glove box. A glove box is a mechanical box that has an inert atmosphere inside to protect chemicals, from the atmosphere, outside moisture, air. And so there gloves, you put your hands in, and you can do operations. But it's really unusual for people that aren't used to it. As a chemist, I used it all the time. But you take a kid off the street, he doesn't have any idea what he's operating with. And so we're trying to teach people how to use a glove box without making a mess, without putting themselves in harm's way from the hazards that are in the glove box. Because if you don't do it, right, you can either mess up the material, or you can expose the worker to the material. And in that case, if you just have joysticks, it's not very realistic. And so everything we do with augmented reality, virtual reality, extended reality is increasing the level of immersion and realism. And so yeah, we have the gloves and you can feel something you can when you go to turn a knob in the digital you see it and it it's hysterical to watch people respond.


I can only imagine because well, I'm not PS five allows you with the rulebook their their controller to feel the haptics Yeah, like, if I'm pulling a bow, it tightens up a little bit, whatever that is, you guys are a next level?


Well, we help. So


I would imagine the learning is really improved. It is me, I don't want to watch. I don't want to watch deck and deck and


well, so it's improved. But I need to make sure that I point out, we have the technologies that we're developing, but half of our staff are educators. And that's by design. So everything we do, every technology we dive into, and really every every slide every class, it's all built by educators, with subject matter experts who aren't theoretical experts, but they've done the job every day. And that's how we designed every course that we do, every interaction that we do, we have an educator, a subject matter expert and a technologist who come together to build something that you can't find somewhere else. And if you can, I'm a little less interested because again, I'm a creator, I like to create things that haven't been done before. And that's really kind of our vision at this at ortak. As we call it, the Oak Ridge enhanced Technology and Training Center. We want to create new things that make a difference.


So one last question as we wrap it up here.


You're part of area, you said, Hey, I might as well get involved with an organization that is really pushing and learning and drawing and all that stuff. Has it served to be a benefit to you?


Oh, yes, 100%. And right now, area, again, is leading the way. So one of the areas that we're concerned about is how do we operate these technologies in secure environments? Well, area has their 12th research project, which is how do you operate in secure environments? So again, as we're thinking of areas already good at setting up research projects, across its community to address these problems, and so we have leaned into area in their previous research projects to learn what the rest of the industry says we're supposed to do and we're continuing to do that. You're cool. Sir, I get good Oh, Team


Oakridge, because that's cool stuff.


My head was just swirling, probably didn't do a good job at that, just because I was just so good. And this and that, and oh my gosh, what about this? Ah, how do people get ahold of you?


Yeah, so you can reach out to me directly. It's


Yeah, you're gonna have we're gonna have that contact sheet out there. Don't


don't make it easy to


fret not, please, we will. And so you're going to be able to contact Ashley and definitely find out more.


All right, you know the game, we're gonna wrap it up on the other side,


we aren't going to once again, have all that contact information. So stay tuned, we will be right back.


You're listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.


All right, you got to be pretty dazzled by that conversation, how they're using technology, specifically, VR, augmented reality, all of the technology out there to help our first responders, Ashley Stowe, reach out. I know what I'm going to be doing. I'm going to be putting that visit on a bucket list to go to their location to see their math technology and how they are helping first responders be safe? Can't you can argue with that. And they're using technology. Oh, that's exciting stuff. Without a doubt. That's exciting stuff. All right. Again, we are creating a platform, we are creating an ecosystem that is truly focused on you industrial professionals, we want you to succeed, we're going to continue to highlight incredible leaders within industry, and that you can continue to learn because it's all about learning, collaborating, of course, innovating. And Ashley is a great example of that. So please support Industrial Talk, we've got swag out there, we've got a lot of stuff with and I'm doing a series on marketing, industrial marketing. And because I'm not, I'm going to be pretty real about the program. So it's going to be out on my learning management system. But it's going to be real, real tactics on on what to do and how to sort of open doors. So be on the lookout for that. And we also have three webinars scheduled one on supply chain. The other one is on VR XR, that type of technology and I want to say the other one is in the world of cybersecurity. So all of it, educate, educate, educate. All right, be bold, be brave, you're greatly hanging out with Ashley, you will change the world. We're gonna have another great conversation coming from OMG shortly so stay tuned.

Industrial Talk is onsite at the OMG Quarterly Standards Meeting and chatting with Ashley Stowe, Director of Enhanced Technology Training Center at Oak Ridge Y-12 National Security Complex about "Improving training outcomes for our First Responders using Virtual Reality". Tune in and hear more about the importance of the latest in Virtual Reality Standards and Ashley's unique insights on this Industrial Talk.
Scott MacKenzie

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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