How Computer Simulation is Done

Here are the typical steps in a computer simulation project:

  • 1. Specify the goals of the project. Typical goals might be interpreting experimental data, understanding system behavior, system design, process optimization, or creation of an interactive learning tool.
  • 2. Collect all known information about the system to be simulated, including any recorded data.
  • 3. Research: Has a model been created previously for this system, a similar system, or any parts of this system?
  • 4. Decide on the state variables that should be in the model to accomplish the goals from Step 1. For each variable, specify appropriate units and a range of expected values.
  • 5. Complete the creation of the system model to be studied, by finding mathematical relationships between the state variables. As far as possible, these relationships should come from known fundamental laws, for example from physics and chemistry.
  • 6. Select a suitable computer simulation software package or programming language to solve the model equations and display or store the results. Implement the model equations in the selected software or language.
  • 7. Test the coded system model by applying external conditions (through model parameters) that should produce known model behavior.
  • 8. Exercise the model with different sets of applied conditions to meet the goals from Step 1. This may include a computer search of parameter values to fit data or to produce specific desired system behaviors.
  • 9. Write a report including all the goals, specifications, model code, fitted parameter values, and computed results produced in steps 1 through 8.