CARY, N.C. — Jerry Heneghan, chief executive officer of Virtual Heroes, has more than games and virtual learning on his mind.

At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., Heneghan and several other executives disclosed plans to launch a technology initiative in North Carolina to further the adoption of advanced learning technologies across the state. Heneghan, whose company focuses on virtual reality training and helped develop the wildly popular “America’s Army” video game for the U.S. Army, serves as the group’s president.

Known as the North Carolina Association for Advanced Learning Technologies, or NCALTA, the non-profit organization plans to create what it calls “a vital network and bridge between educators, legislators and technology developers.”

The effort is needed because in the view of Heneghan and his co-founders the United States’ advantages in science and technology are eroding.

“We believe that U.S. advantages in the marketplace and specifically in science, engineering and technology have begun to erode, due to advanced knowledge and widespread low-cost labor available elsewhere,” Heneghan told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “We felt that a comprehensive and coordinated effort was needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness in these areas through the use of advanced learning technologies for education and workforce development.

“Our goal with NCALTA is to create a vital network and bridge between educators, legislators and technology developers regarding the use and creation of advanced learning technologies.”

Heneghan has several supports. Other founders include:

  • Richard Kristof, CEO, American Research Institute, Inc.
  • Darion Rapoza PhD, President, Entertainment Science
  • Timothy Lenoir, PhD, Duke University
  • Witold Sieradzan, Wake Technical Community College
  • One of the group’s priorities is to create a technology center dedicated to learning.

    “Our long term objective is the establishment of an IDEAL Tech Center (Interactive Digital Environments for Advanced Learning),” Heneghan said. “The IDEAL Tech Center will accelerate economic development in North Carolina by serving as an incubator lab for projects sponsored by members of the business community.

    “Businesses will benefit by having access to qualified software developers coming from formal programs at local universities and community colleges who augment their training at the IDEAL Tech Center,” he added. “Trainees will be prepared for the high-paying, high-tech jobs this industry is generating as they advance their skills while working on real-world applications at the incubator lab within a professional, team-based production environment, using the state of the art tools and systems available at the IDEAL Tech Center.”

    NCALTA wants to bolster learning in what is called STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well as mobile learning, life-long-learning, just-in-time, and on-demand learning

    “NCALTA is committed to the development of new technologies to empower learners of all types and ages,” the group said when it was launched.

    In announcing the group’s launch at the “Serious Games” summit in Washington, D.C., Heneghan said North Carolina offered a variety of resources that made the launch of NCALTA possible and the realization of its goals as being achievable.

    “North Carolina has a rare blend of leading learning institutions, game development studios, new media companies, and companies dedicated to creating learning programs. NCALTA will leverage these resources to establish North Carolina as the world’s foremost hub for creating Advanced Learning Technologies, a burgeoning source of high-paying jobs and transformational learning tools,” he said.

    For more details about NCALTA in a Q&A with Heneghan, see:

    For specific objectives of the group, see: