What is MuVIT?
Originally built as a tool to augment Tampa Power Squadrons boating safety courses, the multi vessel interactive trainer or MuVIT was developed as a low-cost and easily transportable boating simulator. As currently implemented, Tampa’s MuVIT platform provides a comprehensive and immersive simulated boating experience while maintaining a modest cost. The video screen is the largest component in the configuration; the wheel and control panel/throttles can be packed into one small rolling case, the CPU is a commodity laptop. MuVIT fits very comfortably in the rear seat of a compact car.
Using MuVIT in the classroom
The MuVIT platform comes with 70 preinstalled scenarios. These missions are predefined as to the activity to be performed and the criteria for success. Additionally with the Free Roam and Custom Mission features the ability to create your own scenarios as well as downloading scenarios which others have created.
Having larger vessels available allows for the creation of scenarios which require interaction with large commercial vessels. Port of Tampa is a major port in the Gulf of Mexico thus the addition of commercial traffic to custom scenarios helps the students learn how to handle such situations.
In the Free Roam mode the instructor would select the locale, vessel type and the operating environment. The current platform supports 24 vessels from a jetski to a supertanker which can operate in 14 locales in varying weather conditions from calm to stormy. Also adjustable is time of day and season allowing for any lighting situation.
For instruction we have found it advantageous to stay in the US venues of New York Harbor and San Francisco Harbor. These two locations allow for the instructor to download the actual NOAA chart booklets (numbers 12334 and 18649, respectively) which compare very well with the MuVIT software’s internal charts.
It is the ability to use actual locations with corresponding charts that makes the interactive training environment more real to the student and enables the simulator to be used in the advanced grade classes of Seamanship, Piloting and Advanced Piloting for illustrating and practicing basic navigation exercises while enhancing charting skills. Since the built-in chart plotter can be removed from the user interface at the press of a button while maintaining the instrumentation information bar (which contains such information as COG, SOG, heading and depth), the ability to perform dead reckoning navigation can become a more ‘real’ part of the classroom exercises. Additionally, because any weather condition, such as wind and time of day, rain and waves can be configured, the possible training scenarios become unlimited.
Custom Simulator Scenarios
One of the most powerful functions available in the MuVIT platform is the ability to build custom scenarios. In order to use this function, a separate program called the Mission Editor is included. Using the Mission Editor, you can set the same criteria as in the Free Roam mode with additional operational characteristics such as waypoints, weather that changes as the scenario progresses, autonomous vessels, and criteria for success.
With a bit of practice, instructors can easily develop docking exercises, vessel priority exercises with meeting, overtaking and crossing scenarios as well as dealing with commercial traffic. One strength to the Mission Editor is the ability to choose how many and the types of the 24 vessels that will interact with the training vessel. Instructors also define the specific routes that these interacting vessels follow thus allowing for the creation of sophisticated exercises. Customized missions make it possible for students to practice handling and maneuvering a vessel under various conditions in close quarters and on the open water while complying with the rules of the road.
Another powerful feature of the Mission Editor is the ability to define waypoints. This allows MuVIT to be used for enhancing both Piloting and Advanced Piloting courses. When waypoints are defined, they can be used for conventional navigation or to trigger a number of events such as weather changes or instructions to the next waypoint. When waypoints have been created, the navigation toolbar indicates the GPS coordinates, distance and course to the waypoint. MuVIT, with its many tools and features, provides for a robust collection of scenarios and environments which will be useful for enhancing the classroom experience.