Students in the mining department at Missouri University of Science and Technology will soon gain hands-on training in heavy mining machinery, surface mining methods and materials handling systems in Missouri S&T’s new Virtual Surface Mining Facility.

Located on the Missouri S&T campus, the facility is the first of its kind in a North American university, said Dr. Samuel Frimpong, the Robert H. Quenon Chair of Mining Engineering at Missouri S&T.

“The lab will introduce students to the world of surface mining,” said Frimpong. “It will give them a chance to interact with large-scale surface mining operations with heavy mining machinery in a classroom environment. We want the students to know that engineers can have fun on the job in their environments.”

The lab was made possible through $675,000 in donations from Caterpillar Global Mining, Luminant Energy, Immersive Technologies and P&H Mining. The companies are members of Missouri S&T’s Mining Engineering Development Board.

The Virtual Surface Mining Facility will contain two Immersive AES 2B base simulators, one dragline conversion kit and one shovel-dump truck conversion kit.

In addition to educating S&T students, the facility will also allow for industry training and development in surface mining methods and equipment, heavy mining machinery operator skills, risks and hazards control and mitigation, planning and deployment of heavy equipment in rugged terrains, and tracking and improving key productivity indices.

“The virtual facility will sharpen students’ understanding of engineering design associated with heavy machinery and helps them appreciate the magnitude of the challenges associated with these machines,” Frimpong said. “The lab will also sharpen their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and provide hands-on experience.”