Lesson 1 - Course Overview
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
- Unknown (attributed to both Mark Twain and Agatha Christie)
This self-paced Course is intended to provide you with an introduction to probabilistic, dynamic simulation, specifically focusing on the use of the GoldSim software tool. Although the Course was primarily designed for those who are new to GoldSim, existing GoldSim users are also likely to find many parts of the Course to be of value.
A solid quantitative background is assumed, but no specific mathematical skills are required beyond a basic understanding of integral calculus. Of course, the stronger your analytical and quantitative background, the easier you are likely to find the Course.
When an introductory GoldSim Course is taught in person, it typically requires two (intensive) days (16 hours). However, this Course actually covers the material in significantly greater detail, so it will likely take at least three days (and if you tend to be very methodical and spend time exploring the Help system as you take the Course, it could take perhaps as long as four or five days). The Course is organized into Units so you can easily take the Course at your own pace (and the site will remember which parts of the Course you have already visited). If you are new to simulation, the ideal pace is probably to spend perhaps just a couple hours per day with the Course (one or two Units at a time). This then provides you with an opportunity to give some considered thought to the information that was presented, and prevent “information overload”. On the other hand, if you are already somewhat familiar with simulation (and/or have a strong quantitative background), you may want to approach the Course in a more intensive manner and cover the material more rapidly.
This is a “hands-on” Course. That is, while you are taking it, you are expected to simultaneously use the software. As a result, if possible, it is recommended that you use a large (or high resolution) screen with this Course on one side of the screen and GoldSim on the other, an extended desktop (e.g., using two monitors) or perhaps two computers (a computer for the software and a tablet for the Course). Throughout the Course, we use almost 60 simple Exercises and Examples to help you learn how to use the software. In order for this Course to be effective at all, it is critical that you work through these Exercises and Examples.
Many of the Exercises and Examples we will use involve simple water management problems (e.g., tracking the amount of water in a pond). However, it is important to understand that no understanding or knowledge of water resources or environmental science is required for this Course. Water management examples are used for two reasons:
- GoldSim is, in fact, widely used to simulate environmental systems. Hence, using water management examples will be directly relevant to many users.
- Most simulation modeling involves dynamically tracking the movement and/or evolution of “material” through a system (e.g., fluids, solids, people, money, items). Simple water management problems provide a set of connected exercises that illustrate GoldSim’s key features that any quantitative person can easily visualize and relate to.
This Course will provide you with a thorough understanding of the key concepts on which GoldSim is based. As such, it provides the fundamentals required to build complex models of nearly any kind of system. That is, it does not simply focus on the mechanics of using the GoldSim software; just as importantly, it explains the fundamental concepts underlying dynamic, probabilistic simulation in general. It also discusses (in general terms) how GoldSim goes about solving the equations that represent the systems you are modeling. This is important, because as a general rule, you should not use “black boxes” to build models. If you don’t understand how a tool works, you should not use it.
Having described what this Course is, it is equally important to understand what this Course is not:
- First, it is important to understand that this Course teaches the fundamentals of dynamic simulation and GoldSim. Understanding these fundamentals is an essential first step toward building complex models. However, this Course in itself will not teach you how to model specific complex processes or systems. What it will do is provide you with the tools required to do so.
- Building realistic and useful models requires three things:
- An understanding of the fundamentals of simulation and the use of one or more tools (e.g., GoldSim) that you can use to build a model.
- A conceptual and quantitative understanding of the specific system you are trying to model.
- The ability to evaluate a system, conceptualize it in a generalized (and often abstract) way, and subsequently represent the features, processes and events defining the system quantitatively at an appropriate level of detail.
This Course focuses on the first of these three items. If you want to model a particular system, it is assumed that you already have a conceptual and quantitative understanding of that system, so the second item will not be discussed at all. The third item (which is arguably the most difficult skill to acquire) will be addressed in Unit 17.
- GoldSim has a number of specialized extension modules that can be used to model specific types of problems:
- The GoldSim Contaminant Transport Module (and the Radionuclide Transport Module) can be used to simulate the movement of contaminants through the environment.
- The GoldSim Reliability Module can be used to simulate problems associated with reliability, availability, maintenance and risk analysis for engineered systems.
- The GoldSim Financial Module can be used to simulate financial systems that include components such as accounts and funds, investments, options, projects or undertakings with specified cash flows, and insurance policies.
Although the final Unit at the end of this Course will provide a brief description of these modules, this Course does not teach you how to use these modules.