A new and innovative curriculum initiative in the Aerospace department at the University of Michigan is getting a lot of attention. Rightfully so, given that it is poised at the confluence between undergraduate education and practical industry experience. Systems engineering and model-based systems engineering (MBSE) are increasingly leveraged in the concept, architecture and design of systems in industry. They are central to efficient and effective engineering design, but are predominantly relegated to graduate programs at most major US universities.
That’s changed at the University of Michigan. In the last couple of years new curricular programs and an MBSE Lab launched to provide undergraduate students access to teaming space and tools that give them exposure and experience to systems engineering.
The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) took note and asked the U-M lead faculty and students to present the keynote lecture at the MBSE forum at INCOSE IW22 in January.
George Halow, U-M Aerospace Professor of Practice and faculty member for the MBSE initiative was joined by Julia Weiss, master’s student responsible for organizing much of the program, and Assistant Professor Gokcin Cinar who is joining them to co-develop a new curriculum around systems engineering.
“We were so honored to be chosen to deliver the keynote speech. It was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by faculty, students, and our Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) over the last 2 years. More importantly, it was a profound validation of the innovation and the value that such a curriculum delivers for students and industry stakeholders alike,” comments Halow.
Many things set the U-M program apart, and that attracted Julia Weiss to get involved. She comments, “In this course series, students are exposed to many processes and tools that are almost exclusively taught at the graduate level. The skills they develop will enable them to excel once they enter industry, or any large project they work on. In my role, I am afforded the opportunity to directly impact students’ experience, as well as the x88 course series strategy and pedagogy.”
The x88 course series includes three courses entitled “Fundamentals of Product Development, Aerospace Tools and Methods, and Product Development Leadership. The series blends MBSE tools, systems engineering processes, and the often under-indexed human element of how to create and manage teams, give and receive feedback, communicate succinctly with and seek gateway approval from senior leadership, and peer review and coaching. Halow and his team are pursuing an INCOSE certification for students completing the three-course series.
“Traditionally, engineers learn about systems engineering through experiences gained in the industry – some are good experiences, some are bad. With the new x88 series, we aim to introduce undergraduate students to systems engineering principles and lay the foundation for systems thinking early in their professional development. Systems thinking provides a much broader and more flexible perspective in analyzing an engineering problem. This new perspective can open up new alternatives for the solution space. Graduates of this program will have learned the fundamental processes and tools to help them solve complex systems problems in real life,” explains Cinar.
The feedback received from the industry at INCOSE was exceptionally positive; the audience appreciated the way the U-M team plans to teach the students about these fundamentals and give them an environment to practice their leadership skills.
Tony Lindeman, Senior Principal Systems Engineer at Dynetics and INCOSE – Huntsville Regional Chapter President, said after the team’s keynote presentation that “George, Gokcin, and Julia knocked it out of the park and then some.” With initiatives like the University of Michigan x88 series, Lindeman states that “INCOSE has a head start in collaboration between industries, academia, and governments,” which is a foundational element of the INCOSE 2035 initiative to advance the practice of systems engineering across industry and government.
If you’d like to learn more about systems engineering at the University of Michigan please contact MichiganAero@umich.edu.