The ATA's TMC was exhibiting at the USA Science & Engineering Festival a few years ago. The annual event draws hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and parents to stimulate their interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by showing off how those interests can be translated into future careers.
“All these different industries would be trying to convince students that this is a career path they should consider,” Robert Braswell, TMC’s executive director, recalled during an interview with FleetOwner, “ because we all have the same problem: shortages in the labor pool. [TMC] had a very modest booth trying to interest people into becoming a diesel technician or a commercial vehicle technician.”
TMC was able to draw more than 70,000 visitors to its booth, which featured an electrical trainer board and a model V8 engine that showed off the pistons that students could play with and then take a quiz about it. Braswell was initially amazed at the interactions his group was able to make with the youth. But then he looked around at what some other companies were doing to draw the attention of more than 700,000 attendees.
“Other industries were doing far better than we were with this kind of thing,” he said. The American Welding Society brought virtual reality booths, which featured a welding simulator game where students could simulate the work of welders and be scored on their virtual work and compete against other students at the festival.
“They were already doing gamification—this was three years ago—and we all saw obviously that we were behind the curve on this kind of stuff. We’re all competing for the same labor pool and we need to be in this space,” Braswell said. “Even the insurance industry had a popular booth encouraging kids to play a video game where you could be an actuary—and they made being an actuary cool. I’m thinking, ‘My gosh, if you could make being an actuary cool, you can make anything cool.’ And we have such a better story to tell (in trucking) than being an actuary.”
TMC started working with Design Interactive to find a way to capture the attention of the next generation of trucking technicians. “We thought that having a smart device game app would be a great way to reach a broad audience of middle and high school students just to get them exposed to the idea that being a commercial vehicle technician is a valid career path.”
The game, “Augmentor,” is expected to be released late this year and is aimed at middle and high school students. It features various elements that turn the work of a modern fleet technician into a game—from doing technical work and fixing trucks quickly to keeping within budget. All of this can be played on a smartphone.
“It’s just a novel way of introducing these concepts through a device that they all have,” Braswell said. “It’s ubiquitous, you know. Everybody’s got a smartphone, so why not use that?”
TMC envisions game updates regularly to give the students a reason to keep coming back to it.