EDGAR COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Shiloh High School’s welding program is going virtual.

Today was the debut of the VRTEX 360 Compact. Industrial technology teacher Rich Knofsky said the new technology saves money and helps students train safely.

“When I saw the proposal, what I saw was an opportunity to teach welding in a new way,” Knofsky said.

The machine lets students learn feel and experience all aspects of welding without being in a booth. Students put on virtual reality goggles that simulate an actual torch and board. They think it’s a great way to learn.

“I like it,” senior Will Mooris said. “It’s fun, especially competing with other people, see who can get the highest score. Everyone likes competition.”

Sophomore Chance Mullenix said he’s learned valuable lessons on welding using the new machine.

“It’s definitely taught me a lot of muscle memory because I would be shaking out on the shop, confused about some stuff,” Mullenix said. “We boot this thing up and it taught me the stuff I needed to know.”

Lincoln Electric Sales Representative Kevin DeValt said they’ve introduced this machine to other Central Illinois schools. He said the goal is to use new technology to get students excited about their future.

“Our welders that are out there are retiring. They’re starting to get into their 60’s and 70’s and they’re starting to step away from the job,” DeValt said. “We don’t have that younger generation that’s stepping up to fill those positions. So, this is a way get the younger generation engaged, get them excited about welding. And eventually into the booth and in production.”

For schools that are looking to buy one for their students, it cost nearly $40,000.