Hands-on experience is a necessary lesson for all disciplines, and drilling is no exception. Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa., this year welcomes a drilling rig simulator to its campus that shows students of the trade how the industry works.

The simulator gives Penn College a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and training students for the industry. It is used in ShaleNET’s noncredit, short-term roustabout and floorhand courses. Short-service drilling employees are trained on the simulator, and the college is eyeing training other students, such as veterans, in the program.

Penn College had a dedication ceremony for the simulator in May, but it has been in use for longer and has already proven beneficial to the school’s skilled trades students. We spoke with Tracy Brundage, Penn College’s assistant vice president for workforce and development, about the opportunities the new simulator offers.


Q. How exactly does the simulator work?

A. It actually simulates the drilling experience for the students. It fits a 110-foot borehole that is fully encased in steel and concrete, and it has a mousehole to store the next piece of drill pipe to be used. It allows them the opportunity to understand the basic skills and safety procedures in the industry. It gives them that hands-on learning in the environment.

The experiences are automated, but still they need to understand the fundamentals and competencies to understand a derrickman, a floorhand or a roughneck type position. It’s important they understand proper hand placement, proper stance. ... All of the drill operations can be taught on this trainer. It can disconnect and connect up to five drill pipes at a time. It really makes for a comprehensive educational experience for the students.


Q. How did Penn College come into possession of the simulator?

A. We actually purchased it in from Arkansas State University at Searcy. From my understanding, it’s one of three like this in the country. It had to be taken apart and transported here. We had to install synthetic lining down underneath it, to protect the ground and the rig. [Rex Moore, Penn College ShaleNET instructor] came to us a couple years ago, and he knew about this training rig because he had to do training and instruction on this rig when he was in Arkansas. So we owe him a debt of gratitude.


Q. How did you transport it from Arkansas to Pennsylvania?

A. It was just sitting in this field with big weeds growing all around it. The ebb and flow for [Arkansas State University’s] utilization had changed. We got them to agree to sell it to us.

It had to be restored a bit, and they did some of that type of that work. We have a staff here that helps to get it all ready and reassembled. [Moore] worked in the industry for 40 years, so he knows how these things work.


Q. How does the simulator give Penn College the competitive edge when it comes to graduating students into the workforce?

A. For our training, for people to be floorhands and roughnecks, this training rig is a significant piece of equipment for us — to enhance the opportunity for real-world work environment. If you go through our lab, you’ll see a lot of different equipment depending on what the major is, but this was specific to be able to train for short-term programs.

The advantage of the rig simulator is that all of the fundamental operations of an actual drilling rig can be taught on this trainer. Students can operate a hydraulic hoist system, connect/disconnect and spin up to five joints of drill pipe using tongs, slip bails, a pipe spinner, rotary bowl and an elevator. This makes for a very comprehensive educational experience for the student and assists them in becoming qualified prospects for potential employers.

Aaron Foley is a freelance writer for National Driller.