June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Council of Sections
14.994.1 - 14.994.9
Promoting Systems Thinking in Engineering and Pre-Engineering Students Rashmi Jain, Keith Sheppard, Elisabeth McGrath and Bernard Gallois
Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, New Jersey, 07030
The context of engineering is one dominated by systems. In order to better prepare graduates with a systems perspective and the competencies to be effective in system design, we discuss initiatives to promote the development of systems thinking, both in undergraduate and K-12 communities. This paper describes vertically-integrated curriculum innovation, in which graduate-level coursework spawned a pilot program to embed systems in a core engineering design course for undergraduates with its resulting adoption and extension to a core design thread, and a resulting high school curriculum development and dissemination effort which has followed. These efforts have also prompted educational research to develop the academic underpinnings of the relatively under-developed scholarly foundations of systems engineering.
It is increasingly recognized that the context of engineering is one dominated by systems and that the practice of engineering is typically directed towards design of engineering systems, ranging from the small to large scale and even complex systems of systems. Engineering curricula, with their traditional focus on the disciplinary contributions to design, encourage a mindset in which students seek technical solutions often rooted in a specific engineering discipline with little regard for the context in which their product, system, or service may be deployed, the societal or business need(s) it may fulfill or even its relations to all the other engineering, business or ‘environmental’ domains that can contribute to success. In order to better prepare engineers with a systems perspective and the competencies to be effective in system design, there is a need to promote the development of systems thinking in engineering undergraduates. Coupled to these efforts we also see the merits of seeding this approach even earlier in K-12 communities as part of a movement to incorporate pre-engineering into middle and high school curricula.
The genesis of the current efforts at Stevens Institute of Technology to inculcate systems into the undergraduate engineering curriculum and into K-12 pre-engineering outreach is associated with the recognition some years ago of the growing importance of systems engineering concepts to a broad spectrum of industry and government, particularly associated with the design and management of complex systems. Companies and agencies responsible for defense and aerospace systems have been a particularly strong constituency in this regard. This led in 2001 to the creation of a graduate-level program in Systems Design & Operational Effectiveness (SDOE) taught by a faculty with significant experience and reputation in the field. The SDOE graduate program (http://www.stevens.edu/sse/academics/graduate/sdoe/ ) has been very well received and delivered in modular form world-wide to industry and government agencies that are involved with complex systems. The program was initially a certificate program directed to practitioners and working professionals but this has subsequently expanded to include masters and doctoral degrees. The faculty and scope of the programs has grown rapidly leading to the recent formation of a School of Systems & Enterprises
Jain, R., & Sheppard, K., & McGrath, E., & Gallois, B. (2009, June), Promoting Systems Thinking In Engineering And Preengineering Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/15627
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