Andy Hearn



North East Surrey College of Techology for the HND, self-taught, and on-the-job training.


GCSEs in English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Computer Studies, Art. ALevels in Computer Science, Biology, Maths. HND Computer Automation and Networking. CertEd (via Open University) in French and again for Latin. MIET, and IEng.

Work History:

RACAL, Thomson CSF, Thales Aerospace / Avionics (all from the same site however)


Thales Training and Simulation

Current Job:

Principal Software Engineer

Me and my work

Write code – mostly cool, some not so – for all sorts of things.

I mostly develop (gaze at the ceiling, spin around in my chair and write software for) sensor simulations, virtual environments (yes, pretend surroundings), videostreaming (squeezing lots of pictures down cables), and anything else (interesting) that might crop up unexpectedly.

The company I work for builds aircraft simulators, training equipment and rigs, creating computer-generated vehicles, landscapes, and even the weather (rain looks more impressive than a clear sky, funnily enough!) for different types of training suites.

Previously it was writing stuff to test other people’s mission-critical software to make sure that they work!   That was fun – in a weird way – because there were nothing to check that my stuff were checking the other stuff correctly!

My Typical Day

Arrive at work, drink coffee, design/develop/test the latest code, discuss new/old/boring/fun stuff with my team. Find and destroy bugs, run bug-free stuff. Go home happy.

There isn’t a “typical day” really.   They vary depending on what needs to be done.  It is usually extending existing code with new functionalities (ways of doing stuff) – someone (including me) might have a weird bright idea to improve something, or we get to re-use old code for new hardware, but that code will need to have some bits of it replaced with up-to-date stuff to suit the newer hardware, and so on.

We have to write documentation for the software that we create, so others know how to use it.   We try to write bits of it while developing software, that’s better than having to write a lot of it at the end!

Sometimes there are bugs in the software that we have to hunt down and destroy, they usually grab all of my attention especially for bugs that are very hard to catch (but when they are caught and destroyed, it is hard not to want to stand up and shout “YES!”)


My Interview

What's your favourite food?

I enjoy anything, the only thing I can’t stand the taste of is liquorice! Erm, okay if you really wanted to know, it’d have to be pasta dishes and curries.

What invention amazes you the most?

Definitely computers. Even though I understand how they work, it is the way all the parts come together to do so much more!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Quite a list to choose from…. Bungee jumping has to be a fave – the adrenaline rushes are the best. Skydiving comes close second.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had a huge dilemma. I didn’t know which I wanted to do; do marine biology and work on boats, or go into software. Back then these two career choices didn’t mix at all!

If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?

That’s a difficult question! Apart from working on boats, there were so many things I’d have liked to try out; graphic design and animation probably. I even think I could do roadsweeping – waking up early and taking pride in cleaning roads and paths for everyone else.

What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?

That’s gotten me thinking since there were many. I suppose it was the time when I engineered a quicker way of adding new systems (like radars) to a virtual environment, but with these systems not “knowing” that the surroundings are fake.

What or who inspired you to become an engineer?

Being allowed to use Dad’s tools, when I was very young, to take things apart to see how they worked! (Thanks Dad!)

Who is your favourite singer or band?

If I could change one thing about the world...

Do I have to choose only one? OK, perhaps less in-your-face advertising, most of them are for things we don’t actually need!

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

It was when the presenter proved to the audience that we ‘cannot’ see while our eyes twitch between two close points in front of us, that was great – the human brain is still mysterious! I’d have to look that one up as I can’t recall the year…

If you could do anything, how would you hack your home?

I’m a big fan of Raspberry Pi computers, and the weather has turned colder, so I’d want to (if I had the time!) build a detector in each room to predict where my family will be, so to switch the heating on well in advance.

Give us a hack we can do at home!

Wire up the doorbell to another Raspberry Pi computer to make scary sounds for Halloween, and take photos of the caller… But again it doesn’t have to be just for Halloween :)

Other stuff

Work photos:


This is an example of the training GCS (Ground Control Station) that we’ve been working on.


A mock-up of a jet cockpit.  The background is simulated, generated by various software modules all working in synch.


A typical aircraft simulator that we produce here.


… and this is what they usually look like inside.  The guy at the back of the cockpit is the instructor, he can change the training via his console, such as simulating instrument failures, to test how the pilots cope with various scenarios.    He can also change the weather too – all down to software!   🙂

Related stuff:


Raspberry Pi Galore…   They’re the credit card sized computers that anyone can use to ‘hack’ their homes with!


A batch donated to a local Code Club.  A RPi is wired up to big buttons, excellent props to teach kids coding with Scratch.  I’m the one with the least amount of hair, obviously…