Asee peer logo

Introducing Systems Engineering Concepts in a Senior Capstone Design Course

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

Capstone Design Projects and Courses

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.848.1 - 25.848.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Michael W. Prairie Norwich University

visit author page

Michael Prairie is an Electrical Engineer who spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, managing R&D programs and developing various optical sensor technologies, and then ten years in industry developing infrared system concepts for DoD clients. In 2008, he returned to Norwich University, his alma mater, to teach electrical and computer engineering. His current interests include integrating sensors into embedded systems for controlling processes in various applications that support the courses he teaches.

visit author page

author page

Ronald Lessard Norwich University

Download Paper |


Introducing Systems Engineering Concepts in a Senior Capstone Design CourseSenior capstone design projects can often expand in complexity to include systems of systems,particularly in projects involving embedded systems to control a larger system. Principles ofSystems Engineering (SE) can be integrated into the capstone course to help students—who maynot have been exposed previously—manage this increased complexity. At the same time,students will be exposed to the language of SE so that they will be able to recognize its processeswhen encountered after graduation.This paper presents a case study of a mechatronic system (a robotic tin whistle player) for whichthe development follows and highlights many of the fundamental elements of SE, including thetop-level processes of Requirements Analysis, Functional Analysis and Allocation, Design orSynthesis, and Analysis & Control. The case study was used in a two-semester Electrical andComputer Engineering capstone design course in which the students had no prior exposure toformal SE processes. The students still had to design, build and test their projects’ systems, so abalance had to be struck between teaching basic SE principles with its various reportingopportunities, and leaving enough time to do the hands-on engineering required to produce aprototype at the end of the year.This is the second year of implementing SE fundamentals in the course, and the scope of the SEcomponent continues to be distilled so that the essential elements remain. This paper willpresent successes as well as pitfalls encountered in the implementation process, and will outlinethe current framework of SE fundamentals used in the course. Implementing the disciplinedapproach that comes with SE principles has enabled the students at the authors’ institution tobetter manage complex projects, and the authors hope that the lessons learned will benefit otherengineering programs that leverage SE principles as they seek an appropriate level of SEeducation in their disciplines.Selected References:Systems Engineering Fundamentals, Defense Acquisition University Press, Fort Belvoir, VA,2001.Systems Engineering Handbook, NASA/SP-2007-6105 Rev1, NASA, Washington, DC.December 2007.

Prairie, M. W., & Lessard, R. (2012, June), Introducing Systems Engineering Concepts in a Senior Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21605

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