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Introducing the Fundamentals of Systems Engineering to Freshman through Various Interactive Group Activities

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.813.1 - 24.813.23



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Paper Authors


Madeleine C Brannon George Washington University

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Madeleine Brannon is currently pursuing a M.S. in Systems Engineering. She received her B.S. at the George Washington University in Systems Engineering with a minor in mathematics in 2013. She is a Graduate Assistant to Professor Thomas Mazzuchi and works primarily as a Teaching Assistant within the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering department.

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Zoe Szajnfarber

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Dr. Zoe Szajnfarber is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at the George Washington University. Her research seeks to understand the fundamental dynamics of innovation in technology-intensive governmental organization, as a basis for decision-making. She received her bachelor's degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. Szajnfarber conducted her graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning dual masters' degrees in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Technology Policy and a doctorate in Engineering Systems. Her dissertation focused on technology infusion at NASA and involved substantial field work at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Outside of academia, Dr. Szajnfarber has worked as a systems engineer at MDA Space Missions (Canadarm Program) and Dynacon Inc. (Microsatellites); and as a researcher at the European Space Agency (Advanced Concepts Team).

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Thomas Andrew Mazzuchi George Washington University

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Dr. Thomas A. Mazzuchi received a B.A. (1978) in Mathematics from Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA, a M.S. (1979) and a D.Sc. (1982), both in Operations Research from the George Washington University, Washington DC. Currently, he is a Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. At George Washington University, he has also served as the Chair of the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, Chair of the Operations Research Department and as Interim Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Dr. Mazzuchi has been engaged in consulting and research in the area of reliability and risk analysis for over twenty five years. He served for two and a half years as a research mathematician at the international operations and process research laboratory of the Royal Dutch Shell Company. While at Shell, Dr. Mazzuchi was involved with reliability and risk analysis of large processing systems, maintenance optimization of off-shore platforms, and quality control procedures at large scale chemical plants. During his academic career, he has held research contracts in development of testing procedures for both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army, in spares provisioning modeling with the U. S. Postal Service, in mission assurance with NASA, and in maritime safety and risk assessment with the Port Authority of New Orleans, the Washington Office of Marine Safety, Washington State Department of Transportation, and the San Francisco Bay Area Transit Authority.
Dr. Mazzuchi’s current research interests include systems engineering processes, risk analysis, reliability growth assessment, software reliability modeling, design and inference in life testing, reliability estimation as a function of operating environment, maintenance inspection policies, and incorporation of expert judgment into reliability and risk analysis.

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Teaching the Fundamentals of Systems Engineering through Various Interactive Group Activities Madeleine Brannon, Dr. Thomas Mazzuchi, Dr. Zoe Szajnfarber George Washington University, Washington, DC Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department mbrannon@gwu.eduThe concepts and tools taught in an introductory course to Systems Engineering involve amindset which is not familiar to freshman undergraduate students. Teaching SystemsEngineering at a freshman level is challenging because students do not have work experiences todraw from to solidify the tools they are learning. We aim to overcome this barrier by usingimmersive group activities to provide a simulated context in which students can apply and learnabout the benefits of Systems Engineering. Our Introduction to Systems Analysis course isstructured around three group projects, which collectively provide an overview of thefundamental lessons of the field. The projects are an egg drop challenge which teaches the valueof upfront systems engineering and rapid prototyping, a LEGO Mindstorm competition whichteaches the importance of testing and validation, in addition to design under operationaluncertainty, and a Lean Simulation game which teaches user needs and enterprise value.While it has been well established in the general pedagogical literature that group projects andactive learning are effective teaching tools, they are not widely used in Systems Engineering fora variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are creating realistic and accessible SystemsEngineering problems is difficult in a classroom setting and coordinating effective group projectscan be complex and costly. In this paper we document our attempt to overcome these challengesand explore how they impact the student’s learning experience. First we compare the content ofour Introduction to Systems Analysis to other similar undergraduate introductory systemsengineering classes at peer institutions to identify core differences in our approach. Second wemeasure the learning progress through class observations and feedback from the students. Theclass observations include our perceptions of how students’ questions evolve over the semesterand also the extent of their engagement. The feedback portion provides the results and analysisof a survey where students rate the projects in the course, exploring which projects successfullytied our learning objectives to their perceived knowledge of Systems Engineering.

Brannon, M. C., & Szajnfarber, Z., & Mazzuchi, T. A. (2014, June), Introducing the Fundamentals of Systems Engineering to Freshman through Various Interactive Group Activities Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20705

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