Mining Contract: Modernization and Further Development of the NIOSH Mine Emergency Response Training System (MERITS), Phase 1
This contract will develop a modernized and improved version of the NIOSH Mine Emergency Response Interactive Training Simulation (MERITS), making it compatible with modern computer systems. It will also redesign it to increase its value as a training aid. The technology used in the current version of MERITS is becoming increasingly dated and obsolete, resulting in unstable execution and frequent crashes. There is still a steady demand for this type of mine command center emergency response training and an update will extend the usefulness of the program, providing a valuable training tool for the industry.
Contract Status & Impact
Much of the MERITS browser interface has been replicated. All of the web-based documents have been translated to the Umbra© platform and are now stored locally on the PC instead of an external web server. These documents describe the mine workings and include personnel lists, supply inventory, ventilation plan, roof control plan, emergency response plan, etc. Storing them locally eliminates the need for an Internet connection to run a session and addresses the issue of conducting training in areas with poor Internet connectivity. The text-to-speech and Microsoft® Agent functions have been transferred over and are operational but are subject to some refinements. These provide the mechanisms to replicate chatter generated by the simulated personnel and to have "virtual" people interrupt the command center.
The Mine Map tool has been integrated into the new Browser interface. It previously ran as an external application. This provides an interactive digital map of the mine workings for reference. Basic functionality (e.g., pan, zoom, refresh) has been completed with the more advanced functions (e.g., distance, define area or location, highlight) yet to be completed. A new map inspection tool using the "mouse hover" functionality has been prototyped. This tool provides a quick way for the trainer to inspect the atmosphere properties of entries and crosscuts and convey ventilation teaching points to the class.
On the simulation side, the miner "agents" have been created and some core behaviors have been implemented. These include basic wayfinding in the underground mine, evacuation procedures, grouping behavior, and utilizing mantrips for transport when present. These agents, or virtual miners, comprise the simulated employees working the mine that the trainee will interact with in responding to the emergency.
This contract was terminated by mutual agreement on 6/30/2009.