UA licenses new Desert Saber mine safety simulation training program

Kerry Clines

June 14, 2017

A scene from one of the Desert Saber scenarios. Photo by Leonard Brown.

The University of Arizona (UA) has licensed an interactive training program called Desert Saber, which was developed at the Lowell Institute for Mineral ResourcesUA News reports. The program, which simulates training exercises for the mining industries, was created in collaboration with the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and with funding from Science Foundation Arizona, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“Computer games are well-suited to adult learning because they are highly engaging and they foster critical thinking,” Leonard Brown, one of the inventors, tells the university newspaper, adding that the invention combines his research with co-inventor Mary M. Poulton’s extensive career knowledge to create “immersive, hands-on experiences that you hope to never encounter on the job” with the ultimate goal of saving lives.

“We know from teaching that sitting there, staring at a screen, listening, is not a way to engage people,” Poulton tells the news agency. “It doesn’t make people more safety conscious, and it doesn’t lead to better safety behaviors at the job site.”

Desert Saber’s game-like programs use realistic, interactive, scenario-based training exercises that simulate situations where teams need to come together quickly to make life-or-death decisions. Poulton tells the newspaper that even though users know they are in a simulation, they still experience real stress. “You see people’s personalities come out in response to that stress. So it’s about mining, but it’s also about communication, decision-making, and leadership,” Poulton says, adding that the system then provides an analysis of the response to help the learner focus on improving essential skills.

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Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from research at the university, helped to facilitate the protection of the intellectual property, the license of that IP to Desert Saber, and the formation of the company.

“Desert Saber is absolutely going to have a very major and important impact in the mining industry,” Michael Peltier, the chief programmer of Desert Saber, tells the newspaper. “It’s not that safety is currently neglected. It’s that this is a distinct improvement in the methodology they use to train the miners. This is how miners can get better at training to improve their safety record beyond where it is at today.”

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