Systems, systems of systems, and the education of engineers

Stephen J. Lukasik
Harvey Mudd College
301 E. 12th St., Claremont, CA 91711-5990, U.S.A.

Abstract:
The thesis presented here is that the result of engineering is the design, construction, or operation of systems or their subsystems and components and that the teaching of systems must be central to engineering education. It is maintained that current undergraduate engineering curricula do not give the student adequate appreciation of this major intellectual element of their profession. Five proposals for approaches to correct this deficiency are offered: opportunities for clinical practice throughout all the undergraduate years; the use of distributed interactive simulation technology in semester-long projects; courses or course material on the phenomenology and behavior of systems; use of project management tools in engineering clinics; and encouraging engineering faculty to spend some part of their sabbaticals engaged in system design or operation. Issues of implementation are addressed, including the scaling of these ideas to universities that must meet the needs of large numbers of students.

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