My Co-Op Experience – Computer Science Student at ESD

September 30, 2021

Hello! My name is David Ward and I am a Computer Science student at the University of Victoria! During the summer of 2021, I worked as a co-op student for ESD Simulation Training at their main office in Kelowna, BC. This was my second co-op experience, after completing my first co-op placement as a Web Developer & Client Relationship Manager at a custom software company. Two things initially caught my eye about ESD’s job offer. Firstly, the idea of building training simulations for engineering systems was intriguing, as it was different from any of the other, standard enterprise software positions. Secondly, I wanted the opportunity to spend my summer in Kelowna, a beautiful place that I had never had the chance to visit before.


With ESD Simulation Training, I was employed as a Simulation Modeller & IT Assistant. The main purpose of my role was to help in the development of a specific piece of training software, designed specifically for engineers in the Natural Gas industry. This training software was a simulation model that replicated a real-life system and allowed delegates on training courses to practice real-life techniques, without the normal risks associated with learning on a plant.

My Role:

For the first two weeks of co-op, nearly all of my time was spent learning. I lacked experience with many of the tools that were being used to develop this software, and therefore, I needed to spend the time necessary to develop competency with these platforms. One of ESD’s IT staff had worked with these programs for many years, and being able to ask questions and learn from his skills was very beneficial. Additionally, I was able to speak with the engineers at ESD to help garner a better understanding of the Oil & Gas industry. This helped to provide me with a full picture of what this project entails, and what its purpose will be in training courses. The project itself was related to a discipline of engineering called process control, which I had never heard of prior to applying to the co-op. It was very interesting to learn a little bit about this field and see how programming concepts could be applied to it in order to solve problems.


Once I had become familiar with the tools needed for this project, the development began. Throughout the project, only roughly half of my time was spent coding this new training software. The other half of my time was split between troubleshooting errors, debugging encountered issues, reading technical documentation about the system, and communicating with the full-time staff at ESD regarding progress. As this software was designed to be modelled after a real-life engineering system, I worked alongside an Engineering co-op student, who completed all of the math for the system and helped to explain how the real-world systems work so that I could replicate them with code. One of the most rewarding parts of this co-op was eventually solving the problems. I still remember a particular day when the engineering co-op and I managed to surprise ourselves with our detective work, solving a number of issues that had been stalling us for a while. Although we were expected to solve most of the problems ourselves, the full-time staff of IT personnel & engineers were always there to address any of our questions or concerns.


Key Takeaways:

One of the most important lessons that I learnt in this co-op position is how important research is for a developer. I experienced this right away when I encountered software tools that I had never used before and, therefore, had to research their functionality before starting any actual development work. This continued throughout the whole term, although, once I got familiar with the new tools, most of the research was focused on the most efficient ways to integrate certain features.


Overall, I greatly enjoyed my work term at ESD. I was able to learn a lot and contribute to the training courses that they create and deliver. In fact, it worked out so well that, even though my 4-month co-op has ended, I am continuing my role in a part-time capacity while I continue my schooling at the University of Victoria. This job was the first time that I worked in a “standard software developer” position, and I am extremely happy with the experience I had and the skills I learnt.


ESD Simulation Training – Global Leader in Training for the Process Industries