Meet Steve, Apprentice Simulator Technician

There are some fabulous apprenticeships out there, read about Steve’s, and his journey to secure it…

- Tell us about your job?

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"We design and build automotive driving simulators. But these aren’t for gaming."

My job title at Ansible Motion is Simulator Technician. We design and build automotive driving simulators. But these aren’t for gaming. They’re multi-million-pound installations that are trusted by car manufacturers and high-end racing teams around the world to develop their new vehicles.

To better describe these simulators, we call them Driver-in-the-Loop or “DIL” simulators. They are now so powerful that you can simulate virtually any car on any road, anywhere in the world, in any weather condition, at any time of the day.

For race teams that have a lot of restrictions on track testing time, it’s the perfect way to accumulate miles. You can tune your car’s setup in lab conditions with your top drivers and get real feedback, whilst the engineers can watch and study the data as usual. It’s really just like being at the track, except you can accomplish more in a shorter time.

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For car makers, our DIL simulators provide safe and repeatable testing environments to validate future technologies, to learn how real people will react to existing and imagined systems, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems. The simulator is a perfect tool to assess what are the best ideas that will help rather than distract everyday drivers.

A big part of my job is organising the build of our new DIL simulators before they are sent out to customer sites in different parts of the world. I’m lucky as I get to work across lots of different technologies including the motion machinery, computer clusters, and vision systems. Although I am not directly on our support team, I am ultimately helping our current customers when they need it, solving problems and/or queries that they may have. Every day is different, and I can say it’s a role that keeps me challenged!

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"I’m the Ansible Motion ‘go to guy’ for our factory demonstration days."

I’m also the Ansible Motion ‘go to guy’ for our factory demonstration days, when we run our in-house DIL simulator in our R&D Centre. This, I guessed at first, was due to me being younger than other members of the team and having the knack of pushing the simulator’s limits and make a good show with minimal preparation time. However, demo driving has now evolved into me being a prime candidate for any internal R&D testing that is needed. I didn’t expect that when I started, so you just don’t know how things will evolve.

Another great aspect is that I get to travel. We sell simulators in Europe, North America, Asia – all over the world – and my job includes assisting with the original installations for many of our new simulator systems. For me, it is very rewarding once you can see that your new product is operational on a customer site and going to be out to good use. In fact, I am eating sushi whilst we chat as I’m overseas at one of our customers sites. You might guess where!

- What is a typical day like?

Deadlines are really important in this industry, so a typical working day would start off with a discussion with my workshop colleagues and the operations manager, ensuring what work is scheduled for each project and when it needs to be completed. It’s then on to the tasks and making sure we meet our deadlines.

- What was your education?

My education started in the Norfolk countryside, I went to school in a small town called Attleborough. Once I left high school I moved to Kettering, in the Midlands and went to the National College for Motorsport. This gave me the initial foothold needed to get a job in the racing world. I then worked my way up starting at Radical sportscars to Formula 4, Formula 3, World Endurance, and finally GP2. The racing world is a fast-paced game and to move forward you need to have an array of skills including problem solving, good timekeeping but also being streetwise and having social skills. This is vitally important due to the amount of time and close proximity that you spend with other members of the team.

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"It’s really just like being at the track, except you can accomplish more in a shorter time."

I’ve been lucky enough to develop my skills alongside my day job and I’d recommend asking your employer what they offer in terms of personal development, as it’s been very beneficial for me. The electrical engineering course that I am currently doing includes Computer Aided Design (CAD). This has given me the background knowledge to expand my role and become more versatile, such as creating drawings for wiring looms and other electrical systems that we use in our simulators.

- Tell us about your apprenticeship?

I decided that I wanted to improve my skill set further and thanks to Ansible Motion I had the opportunity to go back to college and complete an Electrical Engineering course. I am currently in my 2ndyear of the three-year course. Even after only completing half of the course, I have seen the benefit of the electrical building blocks and background knowledge that this course has given me. I was nominated and won an award at my college for the ‘Outstanding Achievement in the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Award’.

- What made you choose an apprenticeship?

The decision to choose the apprenticeship came from my electrical and electronic interest. I wanted to improve my knowledge and understanding while also widening my career opportunities and progressing within Ansible Motion. I would recommend taking a look as it gets you doing work straightaway but having the support too.

- Any tips/advice for others?

The best advice, which I learnt from my racing background is to be punctual, polite and to always listen carefully to other people and their ideas. You can gain a lot from mistakes and by being friendly, people are more likely to help you and move you forward.

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"The decision to choose the apprenticeship came from my electrical and electronic interest."

Ansible Motion has also taught me that preparation is key. I’ve also gained the support to believe in my abilities and become more confident in problem-solving especially when working alone under high pressure and tight timescales. I’d recommend an apprenticeship as a way to develop both your skills and yourself as a person.