FORT LEE, Va. (October 27, 2010) - The U.S. Army Ordnance School is saving time and money by utilizing the most state-of-the-art welding training currently available in the maintenance community. The VRTEX 360, a virtual welding training device, is literally changing the way the Army trains its Soldiers.

Through the use of a helmet, simulated welding torch and 'coupon', the VRTEX 360 creates a realistic computer environment for the students to train. The system uses magnetic sensors to track movements, speed and precision and then provides feedback on how well the student preformed their weld.

"[The Virtual Welder] enhances the training tremendously because we now get instantaneous feedback, something we couldn't get in the shop," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Gandee, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the allied trade specialist course. "We are also able to increase from a 1:4 student ratio in the shop to a 1:16 ratio in classroom."

The virtual welder, with the increased student ratio, helps create the ideal environment for students to hone their skills before being tested on their abilities.

There is also a cost savings associated with the system, said Gandee. It uses less power, cuts out the cost of gas, metals and welding rods that are required. To put it into perspective, Gandee said, each time a student performs a weld in training the material cost is approximately $1.70. The school trains more than 650 students annually who make an average of 120 welds each.

The new system cuts the number physical welds required in training and students are able to practice more without the school incurring additional cost. The increase in training is resulting in better trained Soldiers being sent to the field, said Gandee.

The small learning curve was also a major selling point for the school.

"The students picked right up on the training," said Gandee. "They grew up with a video game in their hands so they're loving it and jumping right on board with the system.

"We're basically on the leading edge of technology. It's a very exciting time for this field and as the technology increases, so will our ability to train Soldiers."