GREEN BAY, Wis. — Before construction gets underway, Michael Sykes can walk through the buildings he and other students are designing.

It’s a virtual tour, but it gives a better idea of how the finished building will look.

“It allows us to walk through the project and have a visual of what the architecture looks like from the interior to the exterior,” Sykes said.

He was explaining the computer program and augmented and virtual reality equipment in one of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s newly renovated labs.

(Spectrum News/Nathan Phelps)

Sykes, a second-year student in the college’s architectural technology program, said the equipment can help point out issues that may not be apparent in other renderings.

“You want to make sure you can actually walk through before it becomes something that is reality and you have problems that could cost money in the future,” he said. “It also gives you the ability to show it to clients and to show clients exactly what it is they’re going to be looking at.”

The college recently dedicated several remodeled spaces to helping students engage in learning tired to Industry 4.0. That concept brings together data and new technologies — like the Internet of Things — with more traditional jobs to create a more efficient manufacturing or workplace.

NWTC Building information Modeling and Augmented/Virtual Reality instructor Jason Trombley said offering those skills are vital to both students and Wisconsin’s employers.

“A lot of our programs are two-year associate’s degrees. We get as much technology and information as we can in that, but it’s really how does it work? How do we use it in industry?” he said. “Then it’s being able to bring that to our employers locally.”

(Spectrum News/Nathan Phelps)

That includes places like Wild Blue, a technology company near Green Bay.

“We’ve often been referred to as the Silicon Valley of Green Bay and, unfortunately, we don’t have the talent pool Silicon Valley has,” said Will Van Epern, a partner with Wild Blue. “The classes and offerings NWTC is bringing to Green Bay is exactly what we’re looking for: the additive manufacturing, 3D design, the AR and the VR. They’re all positions we are constantly struggling to fill right here in Green Bay.”

For Sykes, the AR/VR education not only helps him understand how a building is constructed and will look, but it’s also building a skill he can offer to future employers.

“It’s a new technology. While I’m here learning this, it gives me another feather in my cap,” he said. “I can list it on my resume and say, ‘This is something I can do.”’

(Spectrum News/Nathan Phelps)