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Fostering Systems Engineering Education Through Interdisciplinary Programs and Graduate Capstone Projects

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

SE Capstone Design Projects, Part II

Tagged Divisions

Systems Engineering and Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.7.1 - 22.7.11



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Paper Authors


David R. Jacques Air Force Institute of Technology

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Associate Professor and Chair, Systems Engineering Programs at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

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John M. Colombi Air Force Institute of Technology

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John Colombi, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Systems Engineering, Faculty Scholar-in-Residence for the Air Force Center for Systems Engineering and Chair of the Operational Technology Program at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He teaches and leads sponsored research in systems engineering, human systems integration, architectural analysis and enterprise/ software services. Retiring after 21 years of active duty Air Force service, Dr. Colombi led command and control systems integration projects, systems engineering for the Air Force E-3 aircraft program office, researched biometric systems security at the National Security Agency and managed/ researched communications networking in the Air Force Research Laboratory.

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Richard G. Cobb Air Force Institute of Technology

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Fostering Systems Engineering Education Through Graduate Capstone Projects Many graduate degree programs, especially those at research focused graduate schools,tend to be narrowly focused within sub-disciplines of an academic department. While this mayserve the academic community well in terms of furthering research programs and developingfuture researchers, it is not necessarily the best approach for educating practicing engineersreturning to industry and/or government program offices. The Systems Engineering (SE)program at this institute’s graduate school has been conducting defense-focused interdisciplinaryand interdepartmental capstone projects over the last few years that have combined studentsacross multiple disciplines on broadly scoped topics using SE to define, scope and integrate theindividual research efforts. These projects typically result in multiple thesis documents coveringseveral research investigations, with an additional document written by the SE students thatprovides the unifying framework for integration and, where applicable, transition of thedemonstrated technologies. All projects have one or more sponsors, often including one fromthe operational organizations with the DoD. These sponsors are often actively involved in theconduct of the project, thus providing relevance and subject matter expertise. Prior projectscombined Systems Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering graduate students, but newerprojects are expanding the pool further to include other Engineering, Engineering Managementand Cost Analysis students for a variety of projects. While the non-SE students are encouragedto take introductory SE courses, it has become obvious that the students gain a significantunderstanding and appreciation of SE just by working with SE students and faculty on theselarger integrated projects. The program has received positive feedback from most of thegraduates that have participated on these projects, and the influence of the SE program hasgrown far beyond the number of students entering the graduate school for SE.

Jacques, D. R., & Colombi, J. M., & Cobb, R. G. (2011, June), Fostering Systems Engineering Education Through Interdisciplinary Programs and Graduate Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17281

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