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Relating Theater and Systems Engineering: Experiences of a Systems Engineer in Theater Courses

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

SED Technical Session: Instructional Experiences

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

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Paper Authors


Giulia Palma University of Alabama in Huntsville

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Giulia Palma is a PhD student at the university of Alabama in Huntsville in the systems engineering program. Some of Her research interests include analyzing case studies using storytelling metrics and developing methods to use theatre as a surrogate for complex systems.

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Bryan Mesmer The University of Alabama in Huntsville

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Dr. Bryan Mesmer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Engineering Management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Dr. Mesmer was previously a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. He completed his Ph.D. in August 2012 at the State University of New York at Buffalo in Mechanical Engineering. Also at the University at Buffalo, he completed his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering (2010) and a dual B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (2007). His research has focused on improving the systems engineering process, particularly for large-scale complex systems. He uses his background in decision analysis, multidisciplinary design analysis and optimization, system/subsystem modeling, design theory, and value-based design to perform research on topics including: interactions in systems and design; incorporation of end-user models and simulations in design; preference representation and communication; the arts in systems engineering; and integration of new system and design processes in government and industry practice. He is currently the University Lead of the NASA Systems Engineering Research Consortium, leading efforts on the development of systems engineering principles and the integration of modelling techniques.

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Amy Guerin University of Alabama in Huntsville

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Amy Guerin is a faculty member in the University of Alabama in Huntsville Theatre Program. She previously taught at Texas A&M University. In 2009, Amy’s production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a collaboration with A&M’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering showcasing flying fairy robots alongside human actors, was featured in Wired Magazine, on, and on the NPR program Science Friday. She has also directed the plays Lend Me a Tenor, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Conduct of Life, Bus Stop, Measure for Measure, An Ideal Husband, Tartuffe, Machinal, I and You, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, and Twelfth Night. She blogs about theater at Amy received her BFA in Theatre from the University of Oklahoma, and her MFA in Directing from the University of Houston. She co-founded Nova Arts Project, a Houston-based theater company, which received the Houston Press MasterMind Award for Outstanding Creative Contribution in 2009.

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Systems engineering involves complex systems - humans. Current curricula do not fully address the complexities humans present. The purpose of this paper is to examine a discipline that does address those complexities - Theatre. Four courses and two productions are audited by a Systems Engineering graduate student to understand the relationships between Theatre and Systems Engineering. Multiple relationships are found between the two diverse disciplines, and are discussed. The research concludes that further investigations into specific techniques and approaches are necessary and that both disciplines could benefit from this exchange of knowledge.

Palma, G., & Mesmer, B., & Guerin, A. (2019, June), Relating Theater and Systems Engineering: Experiences of a Systems Engineer in Theater Courses Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33233

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