From 1992 to 2002, youths under the age of 20 suffered fatalities in the agricultural production sector which was 7.1% of the total fatalities of workers during that time, machinery and vehicles accounting for the majority, 38%, of deaths. Programs have been implemented and shown that less than 1% of the youth who are operating tractors or other hazardous machinery have participated in tractor certification training. Programs have been developed to help train and educate students in safe tractor operation from traditional methods to more creative methods. Virtual Reality is proving to be a more effective method of training students as it can provide realism to a situation that they can't easily access. This allows us to use VR as an alternate means of training students and workers. The goal of this study is to take an established curriculum, National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, and integrate it into an untethered, completely immersive environment to improve student engagement and learning.
The study will utilize a virtual environment developed from the (NMSTOP) and will be compatible with the Oculus Quest VR headsets. The population is pulled from Agriculture Educators and Extension Educators nationwide that are currently teaching machinery operation courses and the students that are in their programs.
It's important to note that we do not expect this method of training to replace the live hands on experience, but to provide educators with a supplemental training method to go along with the live experience. The goal is to provide teachers with a training tool that is realistic, useable, and easy to adopt into their classrooms and programs. We expect students' reactions and perceptions of the program to be positive and for them to feel like they have been immersed in an engaging and realistic environment.
This study will also allow for the integration of VR into more skill-based instructional areas and focus on the evaluation of VR in these areas. VR is still a new technology that is being integrated into classrooms and programs and thus needs evaluation focused on its use in different skill areas.