DMACC to open new virtual learning lab for students

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) will unveil a new, cutting-edge Virtual Learning Lab at the Microsoft Datacenter Academy located on its West Des Moines Campus on March 11, during Celebrate! Innovation Live

The new lab incorporates state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, providing students with an opportunity to navigate within the large, complex and highly secured data centers located throughout Central Iowa via a simulated environment.

In 2018, the DMACC West Campus was selected to house the first Microsoft Datacenter Academy in the Midwest and only the fourth such academy in the nation. The academy provides students with training in infrastructure cabling, fiber optic testing, computer network connectivity and cybersecurity. Microsoft is providing approximately $30,000 in funding support for Phase I of the new Virtual Learning Lab’s production.

“The Microsoft Datacenter Academy on the DMACC West Campus is an incredible training resource, and the new Virtual Learning Lab will offer a one-of-a-kind learning experience for our students,” said Jay Nickelson, Professor of Network Technology and Telecommunications at the DMACC West Campus. “The lab truly represents the future in higher education as it will help students perform tasks in a safe, virtual reality setting as they prepare for in-demand careers in large, corporate data centers.”

Nickelson said DMACC receives numerous requests every week from national, regional and local technology companies that are looking to hire graduates with data center skills.

The new Virtual Learning Lab will include approximately 200 server racks, and is designed to incorporate the high-security and biometric controls that many real-world data centers use, including retinal scanners and key-card entry. The lab will simulate the type and style of work many data center technicians do every day. Students will be able to practice solutions in a “game type” mode by using virtual reality headsets and a virtual tablet to read work-order tickets and navigate the large virtual reality data center.

The lab will be used by students in the DMACC Network Technology and Telecommunications program, as well as students in all DMACC Information Technology classes on the College’s West Campus.