ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Texas State Technical College (TSTC) has become the first university in the State of Texas to implement new augmented reality (AR) technology for EMS (Emergency Medical Service) training at its campuses in Abilene, Brownwood and Harlingen.

“This is amazing. This is the kind of thing, as educators, we’ve wanted in our heads but couldn’t have,” said Kandell Scruggs, TSTC lead EMS instructor.

The technology provided by Echo Healthcare is able to simulate any number of emergency response scenarios, along with the sounds and even smells that paramedics interact with daily.

“I remember thinking, ‘wow! this is as close to the real thing as we can get in the classroom,'” recent TSTC EMS graduate and current paramedic with Metro Care, Aubrey Brown said.

Scruggs told KTAB/KRBC that before, the immersive lab students could work through different scenarios with dummies but the situational awareness necessary left much to be desired.

“It’s the thing we were lacking in education, because critical thinking is something that we have struggled, as educators, to figure out a way to develop,” Scruggs explained.

By pumping in the smells students may encounter and simulating the environmental hazards and distractions, such as a loud TV, nearby wasps, or even falling snow – students get a much better feel for how they may need to respond in the field.

“It brings, like, all those pieces together in a controlled and learning environment where you can make mistakes and learn from it,” Brown detailed.

The software is adaptable to boot. It allows TSTC staff to build and program their own interactive scenarios. Scruggs said they are already in talks with Hendrick Health to film and implement real local hospital locations where students can practice.

Scruggs said her hope is for this program to lead to more performance-based training in other areas of education at TSTC.

“This is going to educate our students in a way like never before,” Scruggs added.

Given the positive reaction to the technology already, TSTC discussed the possibility of purchasing an AR ambulance to work in tandem with the lab, thus furthering the immersion students’ experience.