June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.10.1 - 11.10.18
A Case-Based Approach to Systems Architecture and Engineering Education
Good systems architecture and systems engineering processes are key enablers for the development of innovative, robust engineering systems. Many product failures can be traced directly to breakdowns in the architectural or systems engineering practices of the design team.
Despite the increased emphasis on systems engineering, most systems engineering textbooks tend to focus on specific tools (such as requirements or interface management systems) or describe the systems engineering and systems architecting process in a rather generic discussion. Case studies are typically brief and relatively sparse.
A typical teaching approach is to introduce a tool, illustrate how the tool can be applied, introduce another tool, etc. However, cultivating expertise in specific tools that may not be in use by a student’s employer adds little value – particularly if the student misses the holistic understanding of the topic because he is focusing on details of the tool. The authors believe that it is more useful to focus on teaching students to intuitively understand architectural and systems engineering issues. For that reason, they have adopted a case-based approach to teaching these topics.
Using topics drawn from history (ancient tombs and medieval cathedrals) and current events (the Airbus A380/Boeing 787 and the Ansari X Prize Competition), the authors present a broad spectrum of cases to their students. This engages the students, sparks classroom discussion, and enhances learning and retention of key topics.
The cases are presented using a variety of media (including PowerPoint slides, audio-visual presentations, or show-and-tell artifacts). The cases are typically used as lead-ins to the lecture, allowing the instructor to draw upon the outcomes (both positive and negative) of the case to illustrate key learning principles in the main lecture. Relevant and useful tools are still taught (such as QFD, Design Structure Matrices, functional decomposition, etc.) but the case studies provide interesting, motivational examples illustrating the need for such tools and the authors find it useful to ask the students to discuss how the tools of today might be (or have been) utilized in the design of the subjects of the case studies.
Case studies are also assigned as homework, allowing the students to research a topic and draw their own conclusions from their research and the course material. These assignments are sufficiently structured to foster students’ development but allow them some latitude to explore the topic. The purpose is to develop their analytical skills and encourage holistic viewpoints rather than requiring simple rote learning.
This paper will summarize several of the specific case studies which the authors use and discuss how each one is tied to specific topics and learning objectives of the courses. This case-based approach has been applied to separate, semester long courses in Systems Architecture and
Weaver, J., & Vinarcik, M. (2006, June), A Case Based Approach To Systems Architecture And Engineering Education Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1203
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