Students stand inside the virtual-reality cave.

Screen shots of an animated simulation.

Emergency crews may soon be better prepared for terrorist attacks thanks to a virtual-reality simulation system. The University of Missouri-Rolla received a $1.05 million grant from the Army's Tank-Automotive and Armament Command to see if such a system could effectively train first responders. The program would simulate numerous environments involving weapons of mass destruction such as chemical agents. Says UMR's Dr. Ming Leu, "The hope is that the simulation will provide an effective and less-expensive method of training first responders." Another benefit: Workers train in a safe, controlled environment. To make the experience as real as possible, trainees will wear the same protective gear as in a real attack.