Modelling and Simulation Software

Computer models are used to predict and investigate how a device or process might behave given a certain set of conditions. The rules of a model describe an object or process and the variables that can be changed to affect the way it behaves. Incomplete or poorly expressed rules will make inaccurate and unreliable predictions.

Common uses for computer models

  • Car manufacturers use models to test the effects of crashes on new cars, which is a lot more cost effective than building and crashing real cars.
  • Civil engineers use models to predict the effects of natural hazards such as strong winds or earthquakes on designs for new buildings and bridges.
  • Many businesses use financial models to investigate ways of cutting down costs and improving their profitability.
  • Weather forecasting services use very complicated models of the atmosphere to predict how the weather will behave

How computer models are built

  • Spreadsheet packages
  • Special programming languages e.g. SIMSCRIPT and SIMULA
  • Application packages specially designed for modelling e.g. ‘Model Builder’


  • A computer simulation is a special type of computer model which recreates a system, that might exist outside the computer
  • Often used to train people how to deal with situations that are too difficult, expensive or dangerous to recreate and practise for real
  • Best example of a simulation is a flight simulator

Flight simulators

  • A flight simulator consists of a working replica of the flight deck of an aeroplane, which is mounted on hydraulic supports that are used to create a realistic feeling of movement.
  • Simulation software provides a view of the simulated outside world through the cockpit window, controls the instrument readings and responds to commands given by the pilot.
  • The main advantage is that pilots can practise how to deal with dangerous situations without putting lives at risk or damaging expensive equipment.

Advantages & Disadvantages


  • Expensive prototypes or full size mock-ups don’t need to be built
  • No equipment is damaged
  • People are not put in any danger
  • Modifications can be made easily and re-tested quickly


  • The results depend on how good the model is — a poor model will give unreliable results
  • Simulations can’t completely re-create the pressures that a person might be under in a real-life situation
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