Simulation degree preps uniquely skilled workforce

Tulsa has become a hub of simulation enterprise, producing more flight simulators than anywhere in the world, and the market continues to grow. According to the Military Simulation, Modelling and Virtual Training Market Report 2016-2026, the military simulation and virtual training industry will climb to a value of more than $9.6 billion this year in response to the continuous modernization of technology.

“It would not surprise me to see companies located in California and elsewhere start looking more closely at our region due to the low cost of living and business friendly environment,” said Rick Keithley, CymSTAR director of engineering. CymSTAR provides custom simulator training systems and training system modifications maximizing the use of commercial off-the-shelf equipment.

planeThe company emerged as a start up from one of Tulsa’s first simulation companies in 2003 and now employs more than 50 engineers locally and more than 300 employees worldwide. CymSTAR represents Tulsa’s rapid expansion in the simulation industry, collaborating with similar firms from around the world from its convenient location in the middle of the United States.

“Many companies operate in a mode where the employees can work remotely and not be collocated in an office,” Keithley said. “Over time, this allows more opportunities for our professionals to work for remote customers from Tulsa.”

A community of approximately 500,000 people, Tulsa often is referred to as a big city with a small town feel. The average work commute is no more than 20 minutes, and citywide revitalization projects paired with innovative economic development opportunities attract hundreds of young professionals each year.

Virtual devices are physical training equipment whereas constructive devices are software entities mimicking real-world equipment. Keithley said CymSTAR’s current customers are shifting training from real aircraft or vehicles to virtual and constructive training devices that save money and improve safety.

“This trend increases demand for new training simulators and modifications of existing equipment,” he said.

The business of simulation is exploring new technologies such as synthetic voice and response for role play or utilizing the latest 3D visual technology. Other capabilities in the future could include adding realism to training scenarios through artificial intelligence.

“CymSTAR builds new training devices and modifies existing devices providing supportability and concurrency updates to legacy systems,” he said. “The secret to success in this arena is having the right talent on staff and solving high risk design challenges early in the design process using a systems engineering approach.”

Much of that talent can be traced to TU where the computer simulation and gaming degree prepares students for employment at CymSTAR and other companies in the industry. The knowledge of new engineers paired with the wisdom of an experienced staff creates a uniquely skilled workforce capable of modifying legacy systems while also developing cutting-edge technology.

“These graduates allow us to focus our recruiting efforts locally,” Keithley said. “We’ve had much recent success training new graduates rather than hiring expensive temporary software contractors or recruiting software engineers with simulation experience. Graduates, especially those from TU, move up the learning curve quickly.”