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United States Power Squadrons get interactive simulators

There are training simulators for just about everyone these days — pilots, police, tanker captains, military personnel, driver’s education classes, on and on. So why not a simulator for boater training?

Enter the United States Power Squadrons with their “Boating Training Virtual Trainer.” It’s a newly developed interactive simulation-based boating safety program and it could turn up at a Power Squadron near you very soon.

The training simulator allows people to practice exercises such as docking and maneuvering. But we’re not talking about a radio-controlled boat game like those featured as entertainment at some boat shows. The “Boating Training Virtual Trainer” enables trainees to practice exercises such as docking and maneuvering because it immerses the student in the subjects.

The realistic boating experience is the result of sophisticated water physics software developed by Virtual Driver Interactive and funded through a grant from the Coast Guard and other partners including the National Safe Boating Council, the BoatUS Foundation, Brunswick Marine, Mercury Marine and Boston Whaler.

The virtual HD simulator features three computer screens with a rotating field of vision, a steering wheel and a Mercury throttle. It reacts to variable settings for trim, current and wind. The use of simulation allows students to navigate various on-the-water scenarios where they must contemplate and make decisions using critical thinking.

Another advantage of such a simulator is that it allows active learning because it gives immediate feedback on a helmsman’s performance. Right now, it’s as close as a student can come to actual boat operation.

However, it is not intended to replace live on-water training, according to the Power Squadrons. Rather, it’s meant to provide as close an approximation as possible that can be used as an on-water training tool, commensurate to existing and future on-water Power Squadrons programs that require the same level of competency.

According to Virtual Driver Interactive CEO Bob Davis, by utilizing realistic simulation in conjunction with the Power Squadrons’ “Practical On The Water Safety Course,” students will gain improved retention, skill and understanding of safe boating practices. Boating is fun. Training should be, as well.

The “Boating Training Virtual Trainer” is the first of its kind in the nation. So far, five units have been funded and will be available for use by Power Squadrons later this year.

The Power Sqaudrons has provided boating safety education for more than 100 years. In 1914 there were just seven squadrons, while today there more than 40,000 members in more than 450 squadrons in the continental U.S., Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Japan.

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