To get a better understanding of the troubleshooting process, we sat down with Lana Michele, a member of the product development team, to walk us through it. We also talked about how the dev team designs and develops modules for the  Simutech Training System. 

Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Lana Michele.

Could you please tell me a bit about yourself? Where did you go to school and for what?

I went to Algonquin College for Electrical Mechanical Engineering Technician and Robotics. Since then, I taught at Algonquin for twelve years in the robotics program and was co-coordinator. I also taught in the Electrical Engineering Technology program at the college. So, that’s my teaching background.

Do you have anything more to add about your professional background?

I have always continued to work in the industry even while I was teaching. Most of that involved converting electrical-mechanical equipment into PLC control systems.

So, what is your role here at Simutech?

My role is, I guess I am a product manager where I contribute a lot of the theory and teaching techniques and stuff to the software.

Could you tell me a bit more about how you incorporate your history of teaching into this job?

When I was teaching, it was always a struggle to keep the students engaged and challenged and troubleshooting itself is a challenging skill. So, this software allows the user to develop troubleshooting skills. It’s hard to do in a school setting just for lab time from my own previous experience. Just the lab time involved to give them the time to properly troubleshoot is difficult to obtain. And, it is difficult to pass on. But here, this software does an excellent job for troubleshooting where there is constant feedback. It’s a very ‘real-life’ simulation where you really do feel like you are there, and everything acts just the way it should. But you don’t actually damage any equipment or actually shock yourself as in a real shock. But all of the other indicators are there, your visual indicators, your odour, all those kinds of things are there.

What exactly is troubleshooting?

Troubleshooting is learning how to solve a problem and approaching it from a logical point of view. So, if your system isn’t working and you open it up, and you say ‘oh, it must be a fuse,’ and you go through and test every fuse, that’s not logical troubleshooting. It’s a good waste of time. Or, if your heater isn’t working. Oh, it must be the heater and you automatically replace the heater without testing everything that came up to that point, you’re wasting money, you’re wasting resources, and you’re wasting time. So, troubleshooting is learning to solve the problem in a systematic way that really cuts down on time, only replacing the components that need replaced, which cuts down on money, and just becoming more efficient at your job and solving problems.

Could you tell me a bit more about how this simulated training software is developed?

So, we have a scenario. We pick a scenario. We get the components, real-time. We build the circuit in real-time, like a real circuit, and test the components extensively to find out how it works under all kinds of various conditions and loads and situations. Then we break it, break it every way that we can, and we take that information and put it into our simulation. So, then, you’re getting real-time, real value feedback of what actually happens, not just theoretical feedback.

What are the main goals of the simulation software? What is the dev team trying to accomplish?

We’re trying to give people a tool to become really good troubleshooters because it is a really desirable skill and not everybody has it. It’s a skill, so once you learn how to look at something differently, in a logical approach, you can solve problems. It really is for any technician to become a lot better at their job and for companies because it makes their employees better troubleshooters, more efficient. It’s good for everybody. You save equipment, you save time, and you save downtime especially.

You talked a little bit about the simulated environment, and how do you think that helps the software meet its goals of trying to create an effective troubleshooting environment?

Well, the simulations have so many faults in them. We have so many possibilities for you to go in. Once you’ve been kind of playing with it or solving faults for a while, the situations, the problems, they become easy to recognize. And, because you’re using your screwdrivers and all kinds of tools in the simulated environment, when you get to the actual, physical equipment in front of you, you have confidence and a set of skills that you’re going in with. The software helps you get there a lot faster.

Any last thoughts? Any last words?

The Simutech software is amazing. It’s amazing. It’s fun to play with. It’s very real-time, very realistic. It has been a joy to work on it and this simulation software.

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