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A Laboratory-based Course in Systems Engineering Focusing on the Design of a High-speed Mag-lev Pod for the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

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Paper Authors


Dominic M. Halsmer P.E. Oral Roberts University

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Dr. Dominic M. Halsmer is a Professor of Engineering and former Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University. He has been teaching science and engineering courses there for 25 years, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Oklahoma. He received BS and MS Degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1985 and 1986, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA in 1992. His current research interests involve affordance-based design and systems engineering, reverse engineering of complex natural systems, and the preparation of scientists and engineers for missions work within technical communities.

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Robert P. Leland Oral Roberts University

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Robert Leland has taught engineering at Oral Roberts University since 2005. Prior to that he served on the faculty at the University of Alabama from 1990 - 2005. His interests are in control systems, engineering education and stochastic processes. He has participated in engineering education research through the NSF Foundation Coalition, NSF CCLI and NSF Department Level Reform programs.

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Emily Dzurilla

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A new course has been developed for undergraduate engineering students that enhances their understanding of the multidisciplinary aspects of systems engineering. Students pursing a general engineering degree with concentrations in mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering are collaborating to develop a prototype for a high-speed, magnetically-levitated transportation pod for the Hyperloop Competition, recently commissioned by Elon Musk of SpaceX Corporation. This project is an excellent opportunity for students to engage in a hands-on, real-world, multidisciplinary design experience that lends itself to the application of systems engineering principles.

Systems engineering principles are presented and discussed in class, and the students are periodically examined over this material. However, most of the students’ time and effort is spent outside of class, applying this information as they develop the prototype in the engineering laboratory. An industrial setting is simulated by breaking the students into subsystem development teams that must work together to not only successfully develop their own subsystems, but ultimately integrate these subsystems into the final complex system that meets all the requirements. Formal documentation and presentations at the end of the course serve as a Critical Design Review. Qualification testing is also conducted to verify both subsystem and integrated system performance. Final qualification testing is conducted at the SpaceX test facility in Hawthorne, California.

In addition to the technical aspects of the project, students also learn about systems engineering management, customer and contractor relations, and system life cycle considerations. They meet regularly with technical advisors and submit weekly progress reports, emphasizing how their subsystem interfaces and interacts with the rest of system. This is necessarily a multidisciplinary effort since the prototype consists of integrated subsystems that are mechanical, electrical and computational in nature. The final project report includes a section where the students are encouraged to reflect on the quality of their experience as it pertains to their understanding of systems engineering. Student surveys are also conducted in an effort to assess the impact of the course and elicit feedback on how the course may be improved.

Halsmer, D. M., & Leland, R. P., & Dzurilla, E. (2017, June), A Laboratory-based Course in Systems Engineering Focusing on the Design of a High-speed Mag-lev Pod for the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27471

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