Asee peer logo

System Engineering Competency: The Missing Course in Engineering Education

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 Education and K-12

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1227.1 - 25.1227.29



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Charles S. Wasson Wasson Strategics, LLC

visit author page

Charles Wasson is an engineering textbook author, instructor, and consultant for Wasson Strategics, LLC, a professional training and consulting services firm specializing in systems engineering, technical project management, organizational development, and team development. In 2006, Wasson authored a new systems engineering text entitled System Analysis, Design, and Development: Concepts, Principles, and Practices as part of the John Wiley & Sons’ System Engineering and Management series. The text received the Engineering Sciences Book of the Year Award from the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) in Paris, France. As an internationally recognized author and instructor in system engineering and its organizational application, he is an invited guest speaker and panelist at professional meetings and symposia. Wasson champions the need to strengthen undergraduate engineering programs with a course in the fundamentals of system engineering. He holds B.S.E.E. and M.B.A. degrees from Mississippi State University and a certificate in systems engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. His professional affiliations include the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the International Council on System Engineering (INCOSE), and the Project Management Institute (PMI).

visit author page

Download Paper |


System Engineering Competency The Missing Element in Engineering Education AbstractOne of the challenges of industrial enterprises operating in a highly competitive globaleconomy is the capability to efficiently and effectively engineer systems that satisfycustomer and user operational needs within budget, schedule, technology, and riskconstraints. Unfortunately, the “engineering of systems” performed in manyorganizations is often characterized as chaotic, ineffective, and inefficient. Objectiveevidence of these characteristics is reflected in program performance metrics such as non-compliance to requirements, overrun budgets, and late schedule deliveries.Causal analysis reveals a number of contributory factors: a lack of technical leadership, alack of understanding the user’s problem / solution spaces, point design architectures andsolutions, a lack of integrated decision making, et al. Further analysis indicates thesefactors are symptomatic of a much larger competency issue traceable to engineeringeducation - the lack of a Systems Engineering fundamentals course taught by seasonedinstructors with robust, industrial experience acquired from a diversity of small to large,complex systems. To meet industrial needs and remain competitive, colleges anduniversities create a System Engineering course or capstone project based on SEprinciples and practices. However, the outcome of these courses to deliver competentprofessionals who can effectively and efficiently perform complex system problemsolving and solution development often falls short of expectations.In response to these operational needs, this paper explores the ad hoc, chaotic, anddysfunctional nature of system engineering in many organizations. We trace its origins tothe industrial Plug and Chug … Specify-Design-Build-Test-Fix Paradigm and itspredecessor Plug and Chug … Design-Build-Test-Fix Paradigm acquired informally inengineering school. Whereas these paradigms may be effective for academic application,they are not suitable or scalable to larger, complex system, product, or servicedevelopment efforts.To address these challenges, this paper proposes solutions to bolster the competency ofthe engineering workforce at two levels: 1) strengthen undergraduate and graduate levelengineering education to include a robust System Engineering problem solving / solutiondevelopment course and 2) shift the industrial System Engineering paradigm througheducation and training to employ scalable SE methodologies for projects ranging in sizefrom small to large complex systems.

Wasson, C. S. (2012, June), System Engineering Competency: The Missing Course in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21984

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