The Drilling Simulator Center at the University of Oklahoma houses one of the best interactive experiences students can get – just short of working for an actual oil and natural gas drilling company. At first glance, the custom chairs, joysticks and a massive display screen give it a video game vibe of the best kind. Yet, the system offers simulated training on a drilling rig with the same software and controls used by many of the largest companies. The best part? It’s free. Yep. This class is free to every petroleum engineering major at the university.

“The goal is to get undergrads to understand the relationship between human action, computer interface, and reality,” says Dr. Catalin Teodoriu, Associate Professor at the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering.

Conditions can be modified to simulate rough weather and different conditions for tripping in, tripping out (moving pipe) and drilling. A new class on human error is also being developed so students can safely discover how the equipment responds to their actions and prevents accidents.

“We want our students to experience the aspects of working with people, this equipment and in a real time format.” Says Dr. Teodoriu.

The recent addition of a well control simulator gives the students an opportunity to learn more about downhole procedures using the same equipment used on rigs by major producers. In addition, a life-size drilling rig is being constructed on the OU campus to tie into the system for a realistic effect. OU’s simulator is one of the largest in the country.

Want to take a closer look? Watch this video to get the details.