Simulator instructor station for a new generation19 January 2021
This simulator instructor station has a user interface similar to a smart phone and allows the instructor to walk down the hall with the whole plant simulation in his or her hand
THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY HAS BEEN taking measures to deal with its ageing workforce. Utilities have instituted a variety of programmes to attract and educate a younger generation of new nuclear workers, including new nuclear instructors. These new instructors come from an entirely different technology age. They grew up with the internet, cell phones and tablet computers and using them is second nature.
The instructor stations in use in the nuclear industry come from a previous generation. Imagine a 20-year-old sitting down in front of your current operator-training simulator instructor station: they will ask what it is, especially when they touch the screen and they get no response. These new employees do not want to read user manuals; they expect software to be immediately intuitive and its functionality apparent.
After more than four years of development, L3Harris has introduced a touch version of its Orchid® Instructor Station. It supports inputs from a touchscreen and handles gestures like swiping, flicking and pinching, allowing instructors to control the simulation with their fingertips.
An important feature is the efficient use of the real- estate available on the instructor station application. If information, properties or action buttons need to be displayed, a pane will slide in to display the information and will disappear once it is no longer required. This allows the instructor to attend to the most relevant information or functionalities that are accessible. The user can control the simulation, insert instructor actions, and view system (plant model) schematics, all with simple screen touches.
L3Harris has continued to add and refine features based on feedback from customers:
- Truly portable. We were asked “could we install the instructor station application on a tablet computer, allowing the instructor to pick it up, leave the instructor booth and walk into the simulator control room and be in command of all features, without a keyboard and with only touch control features?” Yes. The current practice of the instructor rushing back to the instructor booth to manipulate the simulator is eliminated. The instructor can be on the floor observing and interacting with students.
- On a tablet. We were asked “Are the tablet computers powerful enough to run not only the instructor station but the entire simulator configuration in real-time?” Yes. Imagine you can walk down the hallway to your desk with the entire simulator in one hand. You can preview training scenarios, construct new scenarios and prepare initial conditions at your desk. No more fighting for valuable simulator time with other instructors.
- My senior instructors don’t want anything new. We were asked “Would it be possible to have the touch version coexist with my old instructor station so that I can ease the older instructors into the new instructor station?” Yes. The architecture allows the new instructor station to run in parallel with legacy instructor stations. The senior instructors can continue to use the older system if they prefer. There is no need to replace the current simulator executive system, port the existing simulation models to a new environment or redraw all of the existing panel graphics, P&IDs and schematics. Furthermore, since the new station runs in parallel, there is no need to unleash an enormous test program to revalidate the simulator’s performance.