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Gage Mentor
by Resource Engineering Inc.

System requirements: Pentium or better PC, Windows 3.1 or higher, 8 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Sound Blaster or compatible sound card, and Super VGA.

Price: $1,295
Contact: Resource Engineering Inc.
P.O. Box 219
Tolland, CT 06084
Telephone: (800) 810-8326
Fax: (860) 872-2488

Personal Trainer for Gaging
Gage Mentor

Review by Dirk Dusharme

Gage Mentor, part of The Personal Trainer Series from Resource Engineering, is a broad-based teaching program on gages and gaging. The CD-ROM and companion workbook provide good training on gage operation, application and management for novices and intermediate gage users. Even experts will find the workbook's appendixes ready references for themselves or for training others.

 The computer-based training (CBT) uses a "see-do" approach to teaching the material in each of its five units: Gage Primer, Using Gages, Gaging Applications, Gage Management and Measurement Analysis. Each unit starts with a pretest to help learners discover their knowledge strengths or weaknesses. A combination of audio and on-screen text then teaches key information for each segment. Short quizzes are interspersed throughout each unit to help drive home technical knowledge. A test follows each unit.

 As with most CBT courses, the material is self-paced, allowing learners to approach the material at their own speeds. Any time users log off the course, Gage Mentor automatically sets a bookmark that brings them back to where they left off when they next log on to the training.

 Unit 1, Gage Primer, covers gaging basics such as precision, accuracy, datums, maximum material condition (MMC), least material condition (LMC), tolerance and so forth. The datum discussion covers datum planes, datum points, datum axes, functional datums and datum targets but was a little too brief for my liking. Understanding datums is key to many measurements; a few examples would have clarified the datum discussion. On the other hand, the description of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing and the feature-control frame was very complete, with a good discussion and examples of MMC, LMC, tolerance and modifiers, projected tolerance zone, and tangent plane.

 The primer also covers math basics: fractions, angular measures, calculating areas, and some basic trigonometry. For the most part, the math section is a refresher and not intended to teach these skills to someone who hasn't already developed them.

 Unit 2, Using Gages, is a must for any novice inspector using gages for the first time. Utilizing pictures, the unit shows the proper way to hold and use calipers, micrometers, height and depth gages, test and dial indicators, a variety of fixed gages, and gage blocks. The unit also teaches the user how to read vernier scales and create gage-block stacks and explains the purpose and qualities of surface plates. Not only are learners taught how to use a gage, they are taught how not to use a gage. Those lessons alone could well pay back the software's cost through more accurate measurement and decreased repair and calibration costs due to abused gages.

 The first part of Unit 3, Gaging Applications, drives home the lessons from the first two units by allowing learners to apply their knowledge to a series of measurement applications. The unit presents a hypothetical measurement scenario, and the learner must select the proper measuring instrument and/or describe the best measurement method. After the user has answered, Gage Mentor provides the correct answer and an explanation. A nice touch is that, in addition to simple direct-measurement applications (height, depth, inside diameter, etc.), there are a couple of indirect measurements, such as measuring the location of the center of a hole or a differential height measurement. Common misapplications, complications and gage care round out the unit.

 Additionally, Gage Mentor includes a unit on gage calibration management, standards and practices, and another unit on measurement system analysis.

 The only real complaint I had with the software is most likely no more than a matter of personal preference. Although the audio portion of the CD-ROM works well for teaching concepts, it's distracting during quizzes. I find it much easier to comprehend a question when I read it myself without the narrator's voice in the background. However, turning off the sound on my computer during the quizzes solved this minor irritation easily.

 Aside from the appendixes, the workbook doesn't add to the material included on the CD-ROM--instead, it simply provides an outline of the key points. It would be nice if the workbook provided examples or further teaching on a particular topic for learners who either need more explanation or want to dig a little deeper.

 As the workbook warns from the very beginning, gages and gaging is a vast field, and Gage Mentor can only scratch the surface of the material. But as an introduction to the topic, a means to supplement the teaching of a human mentor, or as a quick reference for gaging basics, Gage Mentor does an excellent job.


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