Emissions, Nuclear

Education Through Simulation: GSE Systems’ Simulation Training Center

By Michael D. Krause, Senior Educational Advisor and Director of University Programs, GSE Systems, Inc

Simulation methodology for training is not new. What is new is GSE Systems’ integration of simulation, technology, training and education for students, workers, supervisors, managers and leaders for the power and energy generation industries.

Adults learn best by doing. The reality of doing can be simulated for any environment of learning. Adults experience the simulated reality of any situation and learn thereby. This learning – combining training with education – produces a more capable, efficient and effective student, worker, and leader: Faster, safer and at less cost. In short, the simulation training and education center environment provides a more productive worker and leader.

GSE Systems is engaged in the establishment of simulation education and training centers for the power and energy generation industrial work force. GSE is building a simulation training and education center in the United Arab Emirates in affiliation with the Higher Colleges of Technology and the Center of Excellence for Research and Technology in Abu Dhabi.

Building on this first model, GSE partnered with Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga., to further establish a simulation education, training and research center. Operating as part of the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center, the GSE simulation center will have true global reach for the power generation and energy industrial work force.

GSE is also partnered with Strathclyde University, Glasgow Scotland, to educate and train students and industry employees in the power generation – including nuclear – industry and the oil and natural gas production and processing industry.

Other simulation education and training centers – affiliated and partnered with highly respected engineering schools – are being established in North America, Europe and Asia.

Adults learn by doing
The Institute for Applied Behavioral Science research shows that learning retention rates are highest when experiential learning is conducted. The military has pioneered and proven this learning methodology. Their use of simulation technologies in all manner of training brings reality based – experiential learning – to each system and performance tasks. Commercial aviation increasingly relies on flight simulators to train and certify its pilots. The aviation industry has saved money through extended use of greater numbers and more sophisticated simulation technologies.

The nuclear industry was mandated to use simulation technologies to train operators in a fail-safe environment. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the United States government assisted the Soviet Union and Russia to emplace a robust series of simulators to bring the Russian power generation worker to a recognized and mandated standard of training in safe operation of the nuclear power plant.

My generation was educated with two mediums: book learning and the spoken word. The “X” generations – including my grandkids – are learning using multiple learning tools. The most robust of these tools is visualization technology. Each complex system or facility can be shown in a three dimensional way. Each of the components of a larger entity can be shown in detail. From the large holistic view to the complete “naked” assembly – each can be shown, literally like peeling back the skin of an onion. So visualization technology — “to see”– is a methodology that leads to knowing, then deciding, then doing.

The graphic above (Figure 1) shows a production facility wherein a visualization “fly-through” with stops at various points can tell a very robust story. For example, during the visualization “fly-through” of this processing plant, a stop is made at a particular pump which can answer the question of how that piece of equipment is operated. Other stops at components can indicate the maintenance requirements. Still others can show corrosion trends, reflect accurate engineer measurements or indicate the maintenance requirements for that particular component.

Distributed interactive solutions
The need to train locally on site saves money in travel and time. Simulation technology can be distributed to the plant or production facility – given large enough electronic “pipes” connected with compatible receiving systems. Like distance learning, the simulation training capability can be conducted at multiple locations. Given a central simulation facility, instructors can be “beamed” in electronically to the required power plant or energy refining facility classroom wherein simulation training will be received.

At each receiving facility personnel can be instructed using the simulation from the central facility. Indeed multiple facilities can receive “live” training simulation “broadcasts.” Two way communications allow instructors operating the training simulation capability at the central location to interact with student workers at their facility. Initial training simulation scenarios will allow student workers to interactively work through the training simulation. In effect, instructors and student workers will be enabled to “fly” through the simulation from multiple locations. Obviously, this will need careful practice and the requisite technology.

All of the above processes – visualization, diagnostics and analytics, distributed and interactive – are successfully used in training by the American military today. We should apply all of their pioneering efforts to the training of the power generation and energy industry work force.

The Aging Power Generation and Energy Industry Work Force
Economic growth is underwritten by power generation and energy. Demographic forecasts show increased diversified population growth especially in the southern United States. The Wall Street Journal forecasted the need for 143 GW of additional power generation capability within the next 15 years. Planned construction of power generating capability addresses only about one-half of this forecasted need. Nuclear power plant construction and replacement will take time and a larger work force.

The power generation and energy industry work force – particularly nuclear power – [dare I say] is old! Fully 40 percent of the work force will retire within five years and over 70 percent in the next 10. Hence, the industry faces a serious work force shortfall. On going aggressive recruiting of high school and college graduates will need to address the work force replacement issue. Community and technical colleges are gearing up to help educate and train this replacement work force.

In my opinion, to educate and train this work force most effectively — simulation must be used. Recruiting and building the new work force to replace the older, more experienced hands, simulation based training is the best medium. Education through simulation, saves time and money. The work force will need: to learn by doing – “to see” – “to know” – “to decide” and to act. This will be their challenge.

Let education and training begin in a twenty first century facility using all aspects of visualization, diagnostics, and analytics in a distributed, interactive fashion.

Dr. Michael D. Krause is Senior Educational Advisor and Director of University Programs for GSE Systems, Inc. Dr. Krause is soldier, teacher and leader serving in the US Army for over 30 years. He pioneered the use of simulation in training and education at a number of institutions while teaching at West Point, NY; the National War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, DC; and a series of international military and civilian schools. He served as “technology scout” on the Army Science Board for 10 years. He introduced leadership and simulation training to a number of industries. Dr. Krause received a BA from Norwich University, Northfield, VT, 1964; and an MA and Ph.D from Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 1966, 1968.