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Infusing System Engineering Concepts And System Engineering Approaches Into A Multidisciplinary Project Based Freshman Engineering Course

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

The Ever-Changing Course

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.735.1 - 14.735.23



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Paper Authors


Amy Thompson University of New Haven

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Amy Thompson, an Assistant Professor of System Engineering at the University of New Haven, is currently a PhD candidate in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Rhode Island. Her professional interests include the design and modeling of multinational corporation supply chains and transportation networks, complex system scheduling and development of new systems engineering approaches.

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Jean Nocito-Gobel University of New Haven

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Jean Nocito-Gobel, an Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of New Haven, received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is currently serving as the Coordinator of the First Year Program. Her professional interests include modeling the transport and fate of contaminants in groundwater and surface water systems, as well as engineering education reform.

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Infusing System Engineering Concepts and System Engineering Approaches into a Multidisciplinary Freshman Project-Based Introduction to Engineering Course


The primary goal of this research is to improve freshman-engineering students’ recognition of the discipline of system engineering and to improve their knowledge of system engineering methodologies and strategies. Another eventual goal is to incorporate system “thinking” into the project-based course, however, this is not the primary focus of this research. The College of Engineering at the University of New Haven has an interest in improving students’ knowledge of system engineering because it offers an undergraduate degree in this area. Engineering students will not select a particular area of study when they have little knowledge of the field or practice. The number of engineering colleges offering this discipline is growing as well as potential employment opportunities. In an existing Project-Based Introduction to Engineering course, developed by multidisciplinary engineering faculty, [1] students learn about different engineering fields through text material, in-class discussion, and through their own research on one of the engineering fields. Since system engineering is not one of the major disciplines, most engineering introduction texts do not adequately cover the description of this field, or basic system engineering methods, and students do not usually choose this field to research because it is unknown to them. This research develops material for the introduction course that adequately introduces some of the concepts in the field of system engineering, while still maintaining the ability to meet the primary course outcomes. This research also develops and proposes modifications to existing exercises and projects that allow a system engineer’s role to emerge, or that includes the use of some of the methods and tools that system engineers use in professional practice.


Researchers have previously made the argument for a system approach to engineering education. In 2008, at the American Society for Engineering Education Conference, Simo Lehto presented the argument that a system approach is necessary to align more closely classroom exercises and projects to real-world business and activities in Finland. This is necessary because the system approach “corresponds closely to the mode of operation and organization of international companies.” [2] Some researchers have created courses that have a goal of incorporating system engineering principles. In 2007, Sheppard et al. describe developing curriculum that has first- year engineering student teams select a design project that poses a set of system requirements. [3] “This together with mini-lectures and assignments continue a thread started in the first design course to develop systems concepts in the context of design. Development of students' comfort and capacity with sensors and systems as a core thread early in their education provides an important foundation for future engineers.” In 2001, Stengel created a course that introduced several issues in system engineering to all first-year students at Princeton University “in a broad context, presenting not only science, technology, and mathematics but also the reasons that these subjects are important.” [4] The purpose was to introduce non-engineering students to concepts of engineering design and details of technology as well as expose engineering students to societal

Thompson, A., & Nocito-Gobel, J. (2009, June), Infusing System Engineering Concepts And System Engineering Approaches Into A Multidisciplinary Project Based Freshman Engineering Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5724

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