MathWorks Joins the MBSE and Systems Engineering Ecosystem

The Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) lab and systems engineering leadership education x88 course series has expanded their ecosystem again thanks to a new partnership with MathWorks software programs. The new joint effort has strengthened the breadth of tools current U-M Aerospace students have access to while working within their project teams, as they prepare for…

The Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) lab and systems engineering leadership education x88 course series has expanded their ecosystem again thanks to a new partnership with MathWorks software programs. The new joint effort has strengthened the breadth of tools current U-M Aerospace students have access to while working within their project teams, as they prepare for future careers in engineering. Representatives from MathWorks visited the MBSE lab earlier this year to participate in the plaque hanging ceremony, providing an opportunity to meet students currently participating in the lab and the x88 courses. 

MBSE is the formalized application of modeling to support system requirements, design, analysis, verification and validation activities beginning in the conceptual design phase and continuing throughout development and later life cycle phases. A major goal of MBSE and the x88 course series is to provide support and knowledge about various tools that can be used for modeling and project management.

“The MathWorks’ mission includes a key component that the x88 course perfectly exemplifies:   accelerating the pace of discovery, innovation, development, and learning in engineering and science,” explained Jon Friedman and Scott Lehman, representatives from MathWorks. “From discussions with Professor Halow and interactions with students taking and leading the course, the x88 course series and MBSE lab are perfectly aligned to how the engineering of advanced systems in aerospace, automotive, industrial machinery, and climate technologies are done in the world. The course covers the same components of these systems: hardware, electronics, & software. The students are also introduced to the types of technology used to develop such systems.” 

MathWorks specializes in mathematical computing software with a focus on creating powerful and productive computation environments. With the creation of MATLAB® and Simulink®, they are driven to increase knowledge and improve the standard of living by combining their expertise in mathematics, engineering and computer science.

Friedman went on to explain how the partnership was “a fortunate confluence of events,” due to Jon being an alumnus of the U-M Aerospace program and a social media follower of the department. Through his research and professional background in system engineering, he has always been interested in how system engineering is taught. He became aware of the program through both the department’s and Professor Halow’s social media postings. 

“MathWorks was looking for System Engineering courses to support and labs to invest in, and we came across the MBSE lab and x88 courses independently. Given Jon’s connection to the department, he reached out to Halow to understand the goals of the courses and the lab, and from there we explored opportunities to support the curriculum and eventually, that led to the partnership.”

With the use of MathWorks tools, students within the lab and x88 course series will be exposed to real-world software applications used by industry leaders to help them journey through their project teams and the x88 course series. “The MathWorks tools are perfect for this [modeling and project management],” commented Sophia Papp and Hunter Sagerer from the MBSE lab. “The best tools they have to offer for our purposes are Simulink, useful for modeling dynamic systems, and statistical analysis tools for understanding product variation and analyzing experimental test results.”

Sagerer, a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) for the course during the 2023/2024 academic year, has worked on lab and course development since the fall of 2021. He has been using MathWorks tools for data analysis in the MBSE lab before the partnership began, and explained how happy he is to officially have them in the lab ecosystem. In May of 2024, Sagerer will be graduating with a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, and is excited to pass the lab development tasks down to new students in the MBSE lab, like Sophia Papp.

Papp, an instructional aide for the x88 courses during the 2023/2024 year, was previously a lead for one of the project teams participating in the x88 course series. She has previously enjoyed using MathWorks and Simulink in her courses and feels that these tools have been essential to her learning as an aerospace engineer. Papp stated that also having a minor in computer science, in addition to using MathWorks tools, has been a motivating factor in pursuing a career in autonomous controls and she’s excited for their continued participation in the courses. She continued on by saying her favorite part of being involved in the x88 course series is getting to interact with students in the lab sections she teaches and helping them learn about the tools that will guide them through their systems engineering projects. 

Michigan Aerospace Professor of Practice and creator of the x88 and MBSE programs, George Halow, explained, “We are beyond excited about welcoming MathWorks into x88. They are the latest example of a powerful brand in their sector, which is so foundational to the partner ecosystem we’ve created. MathWorks will help us continue the tradition of providing exceptional MBSE and systems engineering education for our amazing students, and prepare them for the future challenges in aerospace.”

MathWorks is available for support to each of the teams currently working with the MBSE lab and x88 courses. The MathWorks team has already helped to set up instructional labs which teach students how to use their tools to better their projects. The main objective of MathWorks involvement with the MBSE courses is teaching students to use modeling and analysis tools that are useful in academia and industry. Students have the opportunity to build off of the MATLAB coding knowledge they have developed throughout their engineering courses so far and learn how such programs are essential to digital engineering. 

“Our project involves writing labs, in partnership with MathWorks, that provide students with hands-on experience using these tools and applying them to their own project teams. Including these revamped labs in the course series, is another step towards equipping students with the skills they need to be successful systems engineers,” stated Papp and Sagerer.

The MBSE lab was launched in September 2021 as a first-of-its-kind facility for Aerospace Engineering students, providing a flexible product development and teaming space. Students use the lab on cross-campus projects to design, build, test and fly aircraft using industry-proven systems engineering tools and processes. It has become an industry best practice over the last few years, and U-M students with MBSE experience are highly sought after.

“Students need to be exposed during their university experiences to the types of skills and experiences covered in the x88 course. Industry wants students prepared to hit the ground running. We believe Professor Halow, the Aerospace Department and University of Michigan are global leaders addressing a pressing need, and one that we are passionate about: educating the engineers of the future,” stated Friedman and Lehman.