May 29, 2023

Learning by Doing: The Advantages of Digital Twin Based Education for Space and Engineering

Dr Brenton Smith

As technology advances, there has been a growing trend towards making education more interactive and experiential. While traditional methods of teaching still have their place, interactive training, leveraging digital twins, can provide the following benefits:

  • Allows learners to engage with content in an interactive and immersive way, which can increase engagement and retention of information.
  • Help develop critical thinking skills by presenting learners with complex scenarios that require them to analyse and solve problems in real-time. This type of hands-on learning can help learners develop decision-making skills and the ability to think critically under pressure.
  • Provides risk free environments to make mistakes without fear of real-world consequences, which facilitates learning and experimentation.

The space and engineering industries are no exception to this trend. In fact, the complex and high-stakes nature of these industries make them prime candidates for immersive training and education using digital twins. By using digital twins, students can gain experience designing and operating spacecraft in a safe and controlled environment. Additionally, digital twins can be used to train engineers to respond to unexpected situations and develop solutions quickly, which is critical in these industries. For example, students can experience a virtual satellite experiencing unexpected anomalies in its attitude control system and become familiar with identifying, isolating and troubleshooting the problem by analysing telemetry data and subsystems before solving the problem through corrective actions such as uploading new attitude control software. When digital twins are calibrated against physical assets, operators can gain experience with the nuanced performance of individual assets how they can differ from one-asset to the next, while being able to use the digital twin to simulate scenarios without having to disrupt the underlying physical asset.

For digital twin software to be effective for immersive education, it should have the following traits:

  1. Realism: The digital twin should closely mirror the real-world scenario to provide a realistic experience for the user so learnt skills translate to the real world.
  2. Interactivity: The digital twin should allow the user to actively participate and engage with the scenario, making decisions and receiving feedback in real-time.
  3. Feedback: The digital twin should provide immediate and relevant feedback to the user, helping them understand the consequences of their actions and learn from their mistakes.
  4. Repetition: The digital twin should allow for repeated practice to reinforce learning and build proficiency.
  5. Scalability: The digital twin should be able to accommodate different levels of complexity and difficulty to match the learner's skill level and learning goals.
  6. Accessibility: The digital twin should be easily accessible and intuitive to use, regardless of the user's technical ability.

Nominal Systems’ digital twin software incorporates the above design principles to provide a great tool for immersive training and education within the space and engineering industries. Our software allows users to create realistic simulations of complex systems in multiple domains. These simulations are designed to be both comprehensive and easy to use, making them perfect for education and training purposes.

Recently, we had the opportunity to work with the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to run a workshop using our digital twin software. During the workshop, we conducted an operations game where users earned points by achieving operational milestones. For example, if a user captured an image of a groundstation, they earned points, however, if their battery dropped below a safe level, points were deducted. To facilitate this Nominal Systems’ product, Nominal Editor simulated the space system including telemetry and telecommand, groundstations, data, attitude control system, flight software and electrical power subsystems. The flexibility of Nominal Editor allowed the scenario to be simplified, allowing the users to hack each other’s spacecraft, broadening the tactical game-play and making the experience fun. We received positive feedback, with participants expressing their appreciation for the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a safe and controlled environment all while having a lot of fun.

Red Team, Blue Team Educational Satellite Operations and Cyber Security Game
Red Team, Blue Team satellite operations game where two teams complete operational tasks to earn points while being able to hack and sabotage the opposing team's spacecraft.

If you are interested in immersive training and education using simulation, we encourage you to reach out to us. Our digital twin software is a powerful tool that can help you and your team gain valuable experience and develop critical skills. So send us a DM today to learn more and schedule a workshop with our team!