The National Center for Simulation, in partnership with Orange County Government, hosted the Florida Simulation Summit (FSS) at the Hyatt Orlando International Airport on May 10, 2023.


The one-day conference, which began in 2015, featured keynotes and panels focused on the role of modeling and simulation in digital transformation, as well as a tour of the new Brightline rail station in Orlando International Airport’s (MCO) C Terminal. Participants also had opportunities to network and visit with vendor representatives from a variety of companies.


If you missed it, here’s a quick overview:


Dr. Will Roper, former Air Force acquisition chief and CEO of Istari, delivered the day’s first keynote. Roper spoke about his experiences working in the Defense Department (notably with McLaren Automotive) and in the private sector that influenced his exploration of digital transformation. During his address, Roper mentioned that modeling as a “de-risking” step went as far back as medieval times when engineers would make models of castles they planned to build before construction began.
“In the early phase of my career, if you’d said, “There’s this thing called digital transformation and it’s going to revolutionize industry,’ I’d have told you that we already do digital transformation,” Roper said. “This isn’t a new idea… computer-aided design has been around since the 60s, model-based systems engineering has been around since the 90s. What has changed is how well we can do this – and it’s been driven by the modeling and simulation industry.

Michael Tschanz, director of engineering technology and analysis for Disney Parks Experience and Products, moderated the summit’s first panel, “Digital Transformation Technologies and Their Uses.” Participants included experts from Epic Games, PTV Group, Mathworks and Ansys Inc. The discussion featured the importance of digital twins in the development of product lifecycle and leading technologies in the analysis and design of complex systems.


The day’s second panel, “Increasing Value Through the Application of Digital Transformation,” was moderated by Dr. Grace Bochenek, director of the School of Modeling, Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida. Representatives from JetBlue University, Lockheed Martin and NVIDIA described their perspectives on the disruption of innovation through digital transformation, which resulted in new paradigms that could create new competitive tool sets for new opportunities. Examples the panel discussed were as diversified as simulators that increased safety and efficiency while training air crews, model-based enterprises in digital twins used by the defense industry, and the applications of collaboration platforms.


After lunch, the final keynotes featured transportation and its economic impact on the region. Bradley Friel, senior vice president of multi-modal planning and environment for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, spoke to the audience about the “Airport of the Future.” His talk spotlighted MCO’s recent upgrades and future technological advancements planned for the airport.


“[There are] technologies we’ve built into this facility that passengers will use and may not know they’re using it, and others they will notice,” Friel said as he cited security as one of multiple examples. “Our TSA screening lanes in Terminal C are 100 percent fully automated. Once you put your bag in the bin, you no longer touch it or push it to the screening machine, you process through, revest [your belongings] at the end, and you’re on your way.”


Christine Kefauver, senior vice president of corporate development at Brightline, updated summit participants on the latest progress on the Brightline rail service that will soon be operating from MCO, with special focus on innovative technologies incorporated into the train’s services.


“Earlier this week we announced our partnership with Starlink of SpaceX to provide seamless wi-fi connectivity all the way through [your trip], so you can be as productive, or as unproductive as you’d like on our train,” Kefauver said. “We’re about 92 percent complete on construction [in Orlando], and we hope to be complete by the end of next month. Our heavy maintenance will be done about a mile south of the airport [at a place] called ‘Base Camp,’ a high-tech type of facility – literally, you can eat off the floors.”


After Kefauver’s address, attendees went to the airport’s new Terminal C for a guided tour of Brightline’s train station, which is scheduled to begin operations in summer 2023.

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