UNR and DRI collaborate with mining – how does that help our economy?

shovel_postImagine being a heavy equipment operator at a Nevada mine sitting in a giant $8 million excavator.

Your task might be to scoop out a long straight trench with a flat bottom. Or a circle. Or any of a number of other patterns.

It’s work that is not only fatiguing but requires precision on an enormous scale.

George Danko has developed a way to make that job easier — and save employers money — by supplementing the excavator’s controls with added components that simplify the complex motions operators must execute and helps them maintain precision even as their bodies naturally get tired or distracted.

Danko is a mining engineering professor at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mackay School of Earth Sciences & Engineering. During his time at UNR, he said, he’s brought in over $7 million in mostly federal grants — money that gets spent in Northern Nevada’s economy.

His work on the “virtual kinematic” project to improve excavation work was done with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, Bobcat and Newmont Mining Corp.

“We’re making the machine more tamed, more friendly to operate by giving it different motion patterns from the one built into the machine at the factory,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to deal with, as opposed to struggling to manage the tool.”

It’s typical of a relationship between higher education in Northern Nevada and the mining industry, and it strengthens our area’s economy. That’s why we residents care.

The reason they care is because the relationship also strengthens schools by getting funding for UNR and the Desert Research Institute, and it strengthens the mining industry by getting it graduates to fill jobs as well as research to spur new technologies.

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