MARSHFIELD, Wis. - A legally blind college grad is starting to make a name for herself in the manufacturing world.
Tia Bertz is a recent graduate of Northcentral Technical College, and she interned at Hastreiter Industries in Marshfield.
"Tia's a rockstar in the 3D printing world," Ken Hastreiter, president of Hastreiter Industries told WSAW. "Tia is somebody that we've known for a few years, and have seen her develop her interest into manufacturing, 3D printing."
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In a field where precise measurements, down to the thousandths of an inch, are key, Bertz works as a quality control technician despite the fact that she is legally blind.
"We didn't really know how to fit her into the manufacturing facility with her limited sight," said Hastreiter.
"I was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia," said Bertz. She can only see clearly a couple of inches in front of her, but she's always visualized things in a 3D world.
At a tech show in Chicago, Bertz stumbled across a booth with a virtual reality headset.
"I was in this virtual environment and I got this part assembled and the person running the demo was just blown away," said Bertz.
With the help of some government grants, Bertz was fitted for VR goggles with a tiny camera on them, that give her 20/20 vision.
"We got to see Tia, for the first time, reading something on the wall across the room," said Hastreiter.
Bertz might be the first to use virtual reality in the world of manufacturing, but she doesn't want to be the only one.
"Once I figured out what I could do I was just blown away, surprised and really excited," said Bertz. "I want to be an advocate for visually-impaired people and tell them that manufacturing is a possibility for them to go into with the right technology."
Bertz is excited about what she'll be able to do now at Hastreiter Industries, like inspections and running a full-blown machining center.