LOCKESBURG, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – UA Cossatot’s Lockesburg Campus has been awarded more than $400,000 as part of a United States Department of Agriculture program.
Officials said the rural development investment will be used to implement a distance learning system with virtual reality welding simulators at five rural sites in Sevier, Little River, and Howard counties.
The USDA said it is investing a total of $42.3 million to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. Officials said rural areas are seeing higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health insurance. The $42.3 million in awards includes $24 million provided through the CARES Act.
According to school officials, the grant awarded to UA Cossatot will fund network fiber upgrades at UA Cossatot’s Lockesburg Campus. UA Cossatot expects to train 30 students in welding technology at five end-user sites annually. “You put the hood on, you actually have all of your welding tools with you, and then it actually looks like you’re welding a pipe or a piece of metal and along the way, it lets you know if you’re moving too fast, if you’re burning too hot, if you’re at the wrong angle,” said UA Cossatot Chancellor, Dr. Steve Cole.
The equipment also will be available for special training sessions in the evenings and on weekends for workers and industry partners.
Dr. Cole said that beginning next school year, the virtual welding program will link the school’s four campuses and Dierks High School. “We are excited to see the success we can have if we keep being progressive and proactive when it comes to technical education. This will allow students to access a welding learning environment from a distance, ensuring we can continue to teach students even if they are quarantined or live in extremely remote areas. We look forward to putting this in motion,” Cole said.
For more information on the virtual welding grant, contact Project Director, Dr. Steve Cole at 870-584-1173 or email at email@example.com.