Thursday, January 27, 2011

Simulations Reduce Cost and Time to Develop Zero-Emissions Power Plants

Gasification Simulation

Here's another great example (see: UMWA Coal Mining Training Simulator) of simulations being used in the coal mining industry, but these aren't operator training simulators. Scientists from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are using a supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to simulate the process of coal being converted into carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

This process, known as gasification, happens when coal is subjected to precise temperatures and controlled amounts of oxygen and steam. Through the use of computer-based simulations, scientist hope to reduce the cost and amount of time required to develop zero-emissions power plants.

Chris Guenther, research scientist at NETL's Computational Science Division discussing the project being conducted at the ORNL:

"This ability to finely resolve relevant structures inside a dense, reactive gas-solid system is not only unique, but also necessary to accelerate the commercial deployment of advanced gasification technology."
Building Gasifiers via Simulation

Several large scale gasification simulations will be employed for NETL's Clean Coal Power Initiative, a program that was instituted to address an array of energy issues and accelerate the deployment of advanced technologies to ensure clean, reliable, and affordable electricity for the United States.

NETL IGCC Process Dynamic Simulator Research Training Center
NETL Process Dynamic Simulator Research and Training Center

NETL has established a world-class Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Dynamic Simulator Research and Training Center. The training center is located at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University.

Gasification simulations provides users with accurate 3D information and visualization concerning relevant gasification properties including flow, pressure, temperature, and species distribution. In many cases, the software (which combines fluid dynamics and reaction chemistry for modeling a single functioning unit) produces more information than traditional real-world experiments can provide.

Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges

NETL's simulation was developed using the Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX) framework, an internationally recognized open source software used for modeling gas-solids flow. MFiX allows NETL to simulate hydrodynamics, heat transfer, and the chemical reactions required to change coal into fuel.

Simulating Gasification
MFiX Mass Inlet/Outlet

Scientists can now conduct detailed simulation sessions that will provide accurate predictions on how to more effectively mix coal with oxidizers, thus getting the optimum mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Leveraging knowledge gained from the simulation, more efficient commercial-scale gasifiers can be designed, without having to perform the long and costly series of traditional real-world experiments that are required in order to isolate these important variables.

These gasification simulations are cost-effective and accurate research tools being used for the development of large-scale power plants, and also great examples of how 3D simulations are important components when it comes to planning complex systems. Simulation software is helping to develop power plants and energy systems that will give us clean, reliable, and affordable energy in the future.

Monday, January 17, 2011

United Mine Workers of America Coal Mining Training Simulator

Here's a great example of a virtual training simulator being used by an industry that you might not think of right away when it comes to simulation-based training, but one that makes perfect sense when you think about it.

The United States mining industry, which is dominated by coal, reported a total market cap of approximately $962 billion dollars in 2007. Competing in a total global market cap of privately traded companies of approximately $50 trillion dollars. In addition to large financial risks being at stake during every operation, mining is one of the most dangerous and accident-prone businesses to engage in, clearly an industry where the training of operators is of paramount importance.

UMWA Mining Technology and Training Center

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Mining Technology and Training Center, in Greene Country, PA, is a $4.3 million dollar facility that is dedicated to training coal miners how to do their jobs more safely. Through the use of safe and cost effective simulators, trainees are able to repeatedly attempt maneuvers that in the real-world are dangerous and have the potential of causing costly delays or bodily harm.

Developed for the UMWA in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, the project has been evaluated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

This Pittsburgh Tribune Review article quotes Launa Mallett, Lead Research Scientist at the University of Pittsburgh's Occupational Safety and Health Laboratory:
"We looked at other industries. We know training in virtual environments has been used successfully in the military and medical fields. So we tailor-made a program for mine training."
Another quote in the article is from Joseph DeSalvo, who uses the training simulator as part of a six week training program at the Union Training Center:
“In approximately three hours with the navigation program, I can teach coal miners how to get around underground as well as it would take them six months to learn on the job. That’s why I use it."
Mallett says that MSHA has plans to evolve the simulator so that trainees can practice emergency tasks like evacuations and rescues. This type of training and level of preparedness is essential for those working in hazardous environments typical to the coal mining industry. Simulation-based training allows organizations to virtually expose their employees to potentially dangerous situations to train them on correct procedures, without exposing them to the serious risks they'll face in the real world. Workers are able to gain skills and become competent with expensive equipment by training in a simulated environment, avoiding the need to take real-world equipment out of production.

Simulators reduce the risk of training for jobs in dangerous environments, and reduce the overall costs associated with training for those jobs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Damage Control Trainer Wins NTSA Training Simulation Award

Damage Control Trainer, a serious game meant to prepare Navy recruits for deployment, won the 2010 National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA) Award for Outstanding Achievement in Modeling and Simulation in the Training category. This serious game teaches Navy recruits how to respond correctly to situations like shipboard floods and fires.

The training game, developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies & Alion Science and Technology, is meant to "teach recruits how to navigate a ship, follow communication protocols, perform damage control operations and train on real-life scenarios such as floods, fires and mass casualty exercises".

Damage Control Trainer
Damage Control Trainer: Incident Response

The game was funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, under the Capable Manpower Broad Agency Announcement, and adopted by the Navy's Recruit Training Command.

Damage Control Trainer Nomenclature
Damage Control Trainer: Vessel Nomenclature

A study at the University of Central Florida, mentioned in this Business Wire press release, states that recruits who used the Damage Control Trainer for just one hour improved their performance in essential training areas by 50 to 80 percent. This is a great example of how training games can be an effective, safe, and cost efficient way of training people for mission critical tasks.
"The Damage Control Trainer is helping prepare recruits for real-life situations, and that can mean much lower risk to both the sailors and the fleet.” - Rear Adm. Richard Brooks
Damage Control Trainer won the 2009 I/ITSEC Serious Game Challenge, in the Business category, and the NTSA 2010 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Modeling and Simulation in the Training category.
“This second award for the Damage Control Trainer reinforces our belief that a well-designed game can provide measurable results in the real world” - Rear Adm. Richard Brooks
Rear Adm. Richard Brooks is the Alion Science and Technology Senior Vice President, and Manager of the Distributed Solutions Group.

The NTSA Channel has an interview with Curtis Murphy, project engineer from Alion, in which he discusses the talk he gave at I/ITSEC 2010 on how they built the award winning serious game.

The game is being created using the Delta3D open source game engine, under the Virtual Environments for Ship and Shore Experiential Learning (VESSEL) project, which includes a simulated 3D interior of an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer.

One of the main goals of the project was to address a training gap that was faced by the U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command. The existing curriculum allowed only a limited opportunity for hands-on learning of damage control skills, and no exposure to shipboard environments prior to the exercises aboard Battle Stations 21, a high-fidelity simulated ship environment. The Damage Control Trainer delivers a highly immersive interactive experience that better prepares and trains recruits for upcoming exercises, resulting improved performance.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I/ITSEC Serious Games Challenge

Happy 2011, here's to a great new year!

ForgeFX wrapped up the year in Orlando at I/ITSEC (Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference), the worlds largest modeling, simulation, and training conference. ForgeFX's Virtual Walking the Pens was chosen as a business finalist in the Fifth Annual Serious Games Showcase & Challenge,

Serious Games Showcase Challenge

The goal of Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is to identify innovative game-based technologies and solutions that improve training across all segments for individuals, groups and systems. Projects were awarded in Best Student Category, Best Government Category, and Best Business Category with all finalists and winners listed on their web site.

From a Team Orlando Press Release: According to I/ITSEC lead Service Executive, USAF Col. Jack Franz, the challenge experienced a 30% growth this year and included a very select group of national and international submissions.
"The Nation needs fresh ideas, innovation and technology,"
he said. The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge helps promote organizations and individuals in that quest.

Rear Admiral (Ret) and NTSA President, Fred Lewis, said I/ITSEC 2010 and this year’s Challenge has proven to be the best ever, and the quality of games submissions continues to improve every year.

I/ITSEC's YouTube channel features a collection of interviews with project developers for a number of finalists, including Greg Meyers from ForgeFX.

Virtual Walking the Pens by ForgeFX

CliniSpace by Innovation in Learning

Boarders Ahoy by Allied Command Transformation, NATO

I/ITSEC's continuing support and promotion for Serious Games is fantastic and has helped organizations and vendors connect, allowing fantastic simulation software to be developed. With the recognition that game-based learning is successful, cost-effective, and safe, there is a big demand for custom interactive 3D training software. With the cost of real-world supplies always increasing, and computer hardware always decreasing and becoming more available, delivering virtual training products is an easy choice. Organizations across many different industries are seeing an excellent return on investment through the development of Serious Games and 3D training simulations.