June 22, 2013
June 22, 2013
June 22, 2013
ASEE International Forum
21.9.1 - 21.9.7
Accelerating Experience with Live Simulation of Designing Complex Systems Dr. Michael Pennotti, Prof. William Robinson Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ, USAExperience is generally thought to be something engineers acquire on the job, a product of the lessonsthey learn from real-life successes and failures. With the demand for skilled engineers exceedingsupply, however, there is great interest in whether and how this process might be accelerated. Recentexperiments using live simulations of realistic, complex, system design projects have demonstratedthe potential for achieving this result. Immersing engineers at several levels of experience in thesesimulations has produced insights usually associated with time on the job and raises the possibilitythat useful experience might be acquired at dramatically reduced time, cost and risk.We have designed and conducted multiple simulations that exposed students to the complexity,confusion, decision-making and leadership challenges encountered in complex system design anddevelopment projects. These interrelated simulations have included: Design Simulations, LeadershipSimulations, Customer Simulations, and Peer Review Simulations. The Design Simulation involvedtwo competing teams of twenty-eight early-career engineers who had been selected for theLeadership Development Program of a large defense contractor. Both teams designed, documented,implemented and demonstrated a complex autonomous command and control system, includingsystem architecture, hardware and software design, integration, test and demonstration. TheLeadership Simulation involved three competing teams of four mid-career technical leaders each,from several organizations who were participants in Stevens’ Technical Leadership Master’sProgram. The teams played the role of the Technical Leadership Team for the developer of thesimulated system. The Customer Simulation involved forty-nine mid-career acquisitionprofessionals, organized into nine competing teams that played the role of the Technical EvaluationTeam for the customer of the simulated system. The Peer Review Simulation involved nineteencompeting teams formed from seventy-three early-career engineers from a subsequent cohort of thesame Leadership Development Program as the original design group. They played the role of PeerReview Team for the simulation.The simulations allowed students to discover that they had been unknowing locked in two nestedmental ‘boxes’. The first they called a Technical Box that trapped them into solving a veryinteresting technical problem and caused them to overly focus on design, without devoting enoughattention to system integration, test and teaming. The second box they discovered was aProgrammatic Box that they felt over-constrained them. The issues produced by this box includedmanagement- and customer-induced pressures, some of which in hindsight were unnecessary andsimply got in the way. The students realized that the decisions they made during the simulationswere unpredictable, that they repeatedly failed to reframe the problem, and, when faced with the sameproblem, different teams produced different solutions. As a result, although the solutions of all theteams met all the documented requirements, they all tended to be over-designed, under-tested andfailed to work. Despite warnings by mentors and management, it took this firsthand experience forthe lessons to really sink in.Our further research in this method for Accelerating Experience includes redesigning the simulationsfor various system definitions and exploring the impact of utilizing MMOG and crowdsourcingmethods to engage broader interaction into the simulations.
Robinson, W., & Pennotti, M. (2013, June), Accelerating Experience with Live Simulation of Designing Complex Systems Paper presented at 2013 ASEE International Forum, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/17214
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