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A simulation engineer designs tools and systems that recreate events or circumstances. These tools are extremely useful because they let users gain some predictability about what might occur. With this data, a person can learn how to perform risky tasks in a safe environment. As part of this work, the simulation engineer is part researcher, designer, tester, analyst, liaison, troubleshooter, reporter, salesman and manager.
The work of a simulation engineer begins with determining the constraints of the simulation project. This means that the simulation engineer figures out exactly what conditions or events to include in the simulation testing so that the simulation provides an experience that is as realistic as possible. It also means that the simulation engineer identifies the best tools to use. To do this, the engineer researches and consults with the people in charge of the simulation project.
Once the engineer knows what the simulation team wants to accomplish and what the routes for meeting those objectives are, he designs initial programs or prototypes to try. He then runs tests using these programs and prototypes and studies the results. If the results are not satisfactory, the simulation engineer investigates the possible causes of problems.
When a simulation engineer finds an issue within a program or prototype and knows possible causes for those problems, he begins to troubleshoot. During this stage of work, the goal of the engineer is to tweak the program or prototype until it operates as desired. This may involve physically adjusting hardware. It also may mean writing new software code to fix glitches. In some cases, the engineer may call in other professionals who have more advanced training in one specialized area the engineer needs to address, so the ability to collaborate and communicate well often translates to the progression of the project.
After the engineer is confident he has a stable, safe program or prototype, he lets others use the equipment. Ideally, the equipment should function the same for these testers as for the software engineer. If it does not, the engineer must go back again and keep revising. If it does, then the project director usually authorizes the release of the software or the building of full-scale hardware models based on the prototype.
At all points of a simulation project, a simulation engineer may supervise others working on the same project. For example, he may delegate work to specific mechanics. The engineer must coordinate the work of all the people he oversees so that parts of the simulation project are completed on schedule and in such a way that they can be combined for the project as needed.
From time to time, simulation project directors want to know how the project is progressing. In these instances, the engineer prepares reports that show what the simulation team has finished and what still is incomplete. The engineer provides data that helps the director understand whether the project is within budget and is meeting its initial goals and time frame. The engineer may forward these reports to the director casually, but sometimes the engineer must attend formal meetings and present the data in person, particularly if major shareholders for the simulation project are present.
One other role the simulation engineer has is that of salesperson. Before and during a simulation project, the simulation engineer must convince the project director that his design will work and that it has a real market potential. Being able to translate technical aspects of a project into layman's terms and the bottom line of improving performance or profit often is essential in doing this. In some instances, the simulation engineer will demonstrate how the simulation program or hardware works for potential customers.