Asee peer logo

Introducing Engineering Systems to First- and Second-year Students through Project-based Learning

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Systems Engineering Curriculum and Programs

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.840.1 - 25.840.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Regina Ruby Clewlow Massachusetts Institute of Technology

visit author page

Regina R. Clewlow is a Ph.D. candidate in the Engineering Systems Division (ESD) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She received her bachelor's of science in computer science and master's of engineering in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University. Prior to her doctoral studies, she served as Executive Director for Engineers for a Sustainable World. At MIT, she has worked as a Research Assistant in the Partnership for AiR Transportation Noise & Emissions Reduction (PARTNER). Her graduate work has also been supported through an MIT Energy Fellowship and Eisenhower Graduate Transportation Fellowship. Her current research interests include examining demand for high-speed rail and air transportation systems and their performance under climate policies.

visit author page


Afreen Siddiqi Massachusetts Institute of Technology

visit author page

Afreen Siddiqi is a Research Scientist in the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a Ph.D. in aerospace systems, an M.S. in aeronautics/astronautics, and an B.S. in mechanical engineering, all from MIT.

visit author page


Joseph M. Sussman Massachusetts Institute of Technology

visit author page

Joseph M. Sussman is the JR East Professor (endowed by the East Japan Railway Company) in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he has served as a faculty member for 43 years. He is the author of Introduction to Transportation Systems, a graduate text published in 2000, in use at a number of universities in the U.S. and abroad. His book Perspectives on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) was published in 2005. Sussman received the Roy W. Crum Distinguished Service Award from TRB, its highest honor, “for significant contributions to research” in 2001, and the CUTC Award for Distinguished Contribution to University Transportation Education and Research from the Council of University Transportation Centers in 2003. In 2002, ITS Massachusetts named its annual “Joseph M. Sussman Leadership Award” in his honor. He became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. In 2008, he won the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the School of Engineering Alumni of the City College of New York.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Introducing Engineering Systems to First- and Second-Year Students through Project-Based LearningSystems thinking is gaining importance in engineering education. In order to address manycomplex global challenges, the new generation of engineers will likely need more enhanced andsophisticated skills than were previously required. Over the past few decades, systems thinking,modeling, and analysis have successfully been integrated into graduate levels of engineeringeducation and research. However, these concepts have seen limited inclusion at theundergraduate level. This paper describes the development of a novel course that introduces“engineering systems” to first- and second-year students through project-based learning.“Introduction to Engineering Systems” focuses on the theme of critical global challenges, whileteaching students concepts and modeling techniques useful for analyzing large-scale complexsystems. Through the lectures, students are introduced to quantitative and qualitative methods,including stakeholder analysis, system dynamics, network analysis, and uncertainty analysis.Interwoven throughout the semester, system concepts such as complexity, flexibility, andsustainability are also presented in course lectures and individual assignments. Through asemester-long project, students work in teams to analyze a complex, sociotechnical system.During the first offering of the course in spring 2011, projects focused on challenges associatedwith transportation and energy, telecommunications, and healthcare. Course projects enabledstudents to further apply analytical and modeling methods that were introduced during the courselectures and class-wide assignments.This paper provides an overview of the introductory “engineering systems” undergraduatecourse, the motivation for initiating the course, and key lessons learned. We describe themodeling and analytical methods core to the course curriculum, as well as a detailed overview ofthe semester-long projects. Finally, we present an analysis of student expectations and learningoutcomes for the pilot version of this course. By integrating systems thinking and critical,contemporary issues into first- and second-year curricula, this course aims to improve theretention of the next generation of engineers, while developing a broader set of skills that willenable them to address the complex problems faced by society.

Clewlow, R. R., & Siddiqi, A., & Sussman, J. M. (2012, June), Introducing Engineering Systems to First- and Second-year Students through Project-based Learning Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21597

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015