The Applications for Training Simulators are Growing Constantly
Most people will be aware that a significant portion of an airline pilot’s training takes place on the ground. In fairness, the ground-based instruction is mainly intended to familiarise new entrants with the layout of the flight deck, allow them to get the feel of its controls and understand its bewildering array of instruments. Ultimately, the art of handling an Airbus A380 or Boeing 747 while in flight is a skill that a pilot must learn in the air. Nevertheless, the latter task is made easier by the simulated experience. However, pilot instruction is no longer the only area where training simulators have proved their worth. Instructors and developers are constantly exploring new ways to leverage this powerful teaching technology.
In practice, this learning approach is relevant to any practical activity that combines a need for special skills with an element of risk. Perhaps you enjoy playing video games. If so, you will have learned first-hand that the more time you spend shooting alien monsters or hurtling around a Formula 1 circuit in the comfort of your home, the more adept you become. The same applies to the many thousands of learners who now use training simulators to develop their work skills.
Before taking a learner driver on the road to practice parallel parking, three-point turns or hill starts, some up-market driving schools are now using a video game-type application first to give their clients a realistic feel of how to do these things. It allows them the freedom to make mistakes with no real-world consequence and to keep practising until they succeed. Once again, learners’ marked improvement in performance when they later attempt these activities in the driving seat only confirms the power of training simulators and their diverse potential.
While many of us can drive, far fewer possess the confidence and necessary skill to accurately position a 20-ton load with an 80-metre high tower crane. Likewise, not many shipping lines would be willing to entrust a rookie on the bridge of a giant cruise liner to navigate their multi-million dollar asset safely through the Suez Canal. Today, most of those interested in these roles must spend some time in front of a computer monitor practising such tasks with life-like training simulators to determine if they have what it takes.
Healthcare is an area where the consequences of a mistake can be fatal. Medical students must gain an in-depth knowledge of internal human anatomy from numerous sessions spent dissecting a cadaver. However, a slip with a scalpel will only mean the unfortunate learner can expect a lower mark. When the object of such internal exploration is a living patient, the safest way for a student to learn how to avoid such mistakes and correct them is to spend sufficient time with a training simulator and practise the procedure repeatedly. Practice makes perfect.
It will probably come as no surprise to learn that some armed forces have also adopted this innovative technology to instruct troops to operate and maintain weapons and specialised equipment. Simulating these activities is not only a safer way to provide practical instruction for inexperienced personnel. The option also saves time and effort and reduces avoidable wear and tear on costly equipment. That’s good for the budget and the taxpayers. Furthermore, the military has extended the use of training simulators to provide experience in the tactics of warfare.
Further away from the battlefield and closer to home, rolling blackouts have been an unfortunate reminder of how much our lifestyles depend on electricity and the people whose job it is to generate it. The industry has been plagued by political issues and ageing infrastructure, leading to service failures, but that is changing. Not only can we look forward to additional power stations, but also a move to alternative and more sustainable to generate energy. New operatives with new skills will be necessary, and, inevitably, training simulators will be the quickest and most efficient way to ensure they are fully prepared for their exacting roles.
The energy industry is no stranger to this technology. Developers have created life-like simulations to cover every detail of the requirements for operating coal- and gas-fired and nuclear power stations. In South Africa, SimGenics is recognised as a leader in simulated learning technology, offering both bespoke and generic products. The company also provides advanced software to create full-scale or specific three-dimensional training simulators to assist operators and engineers in the generating, desalination, petrochemical and mining industries.