A new hybrid vehicle trainer will help students in Imperial Valley College’s Automotive Technology Program develop skills they need to work on the increasingly technical vehicles rolling off manufacturers’ assembly lines.
The 2009 Prius is a $20,000 investment purchased with a U.S. Department of Energy grant through Megatech Corp., a Massachusetts-based world leader in transportation and energy training aids. The Prius has been cut down and equipped with simulators so students can learn both visually and tactually.
“We’re very happy to have this hybrid to train our students,” said Professor Jose Lopez, instructor and department chairman. “That’s the new technology for this car. We place a lot of people in automotive jobs, and this will give them the skills needed to diagnose problems in these types of cars.”
A hybrid vehicle is defined as one using two or more different types of power; in this case the hybrid is powered by electricity and gas. While many students may have experience with gas- or diesel-powered engines, the electronic components – in particular the electric battery — in today’s hybrid vehicles bring much higher risk of injury or death.
Classes are expected to be added to the Fall 2016 semester schedule, allowing time for Lopez and his instructional team to be trained first on how to safely handle hybrid vehicles.
“What we mean by training is, high voltage can kill, and we need to learn how to safely work with vehicles like this” said IVC automotive instructor Ricardo Pradis.
“We need a lot of safety, to make sure students understand safety concepts first,” Pradis said. That includes wearing special gloves designed for those working with high voltages, as well as safety glasses, and developing the knowledge needed to work on this type of vehicle, how to disable its components, and how to dispose of the electric battery, he added.
Skip Saurman, education consultant for Megatech, was in town recently to help familiarize Lopez and his instructors on the vehicle and its equipment.
A fault box allows the instructor to simply flip a switch to simulate different types of problems. Using worksheets, testers and computers to diagnose the problem, the students then can track down and resolve it.
“This will give them theory, practice and application,” Saurman told the automotive educators. “(Students) will be able to jump on it, know the switches and the safety. The goal is to make those guys employable.”
Lopez said the department has arrangements with local dealerships when it comes to job placement, but instructors also will be able to use the hybrid to train dealership technicians as well as students enrolled in Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program.
The vehicle is part of Megatech’s “STEM Up” program. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, a nationwide educational strategy to improve the overall literacy of U.S. students in those subjects.
Megatech literature likens vehicles such as IVC’s Prius to “an integrated science laboratory on wheels … you cover all of the STEM subjects using a vehicle to identify what it uses for fuel (energy), what kind of engine it has (energy conversion to power), what kind of transmission it uses (power transmission to wheels), type of energy storage (batteries/fuel tank) and unlimited number of examples correlating STEM to automotive technology.”
Megatech states that its mission “is directed toward building bridges between the Transportation industry and education. We do this very well by providing world class teacher training and building products that train technicians and students alike. Megatech sees how to create equally valuable trainers to meet school and NATEF requirements in developing real-world job skills.”