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The Use of Systems Engineering Principles to Improve Learning Outcomes in a Multidisciplinary Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 3 – Course and Program Outcomes

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Zachary David Asher Colorado State University

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Zachary D. Asher graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University in 2009, a Master of Science degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2012, and worked full time in engineering industry from 2009 to 2015. He just completed a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University and is starting a tenure-track faculty position at Western Michigan University in August. His research interests include mathematical modeling for control and optimization of mechanical systems.

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Nicole L Ramo Colorado State University Orcid 16x16

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Nicole Ramo earned a B.Sc. degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in bioengineering from Kettering University (Flint, MI, USA) in December of 2012. The experiential learning program at Kettering allowed Nicole to work as a research assistant at Henry Ford Hospital’s Bone and Joint Center (Detroit, MI, USA), where she developed a love of research. Nicole is currently a doctoral candidate in The School of Biomedical Engineering of Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO, USA). She has experience working as a graduate teaching assistant for computer aided engineering, biomedical engineering capstone design, and biomedical engineering introductory classes. Nicole’s engineering education interests include problem based learning, retention efforts, and incorporation of current research into teaching. Her doctoral research is focused on the material properties of spinal cord tissues to contribute to the understanding and treatment of spinal cord injuries.

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Thomas H. Bradley Colorado State University

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Thomas H. Bradley is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering at Colorado State University, where he conducts research and teaches a variety of courses in analysis, design and policy for sustainable energy systems.

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As individual engineering disciplines and applications mature, there is an increased need for multidisciplinary education and application competencies. As an example, a course on modern automotive vehicles must now incorporate electrical propulsion in addition to mechanical propulsion to reflect the current state of the art. Systems engineering provides a framework for teaching a multidisciplinary approach in the design and analysis of these complex systems. In this study, the hypothesis that exposure to, and retention of, systems engineering principles improves learning outcomes in an multidisciplinary graduate level course is assessed. Students enrolled in a hybrid electric vehicle powertrains course were exposed to systems engineering principles through a dedicated lecture focused on team coordination and management of complex engineering systems in the context of the team-based course capstone project. Students were encouraged to employ systems engineering principles across all aspects of the course (e.g. homework completion and exam preparation) with student collaboration a requirement for the project. Student surveys were completed immediately following the introductory lecture, which quantify students’ self-assessed increase in system engineering knowledge and perceived value of system engineering concepts/principles. A follow up survey given at the completion of the course then asked students to re-assess their responses to the initial survey and to report if they implemented systems engineering concepts/principles during work on the capstone project, labs, homeworks, and/or exam preparation for the course. An evaluation of applied systems engineering was conducted by comparing the capstone project scope from the course that included a systems engineering lecture and from the previous time the course was taught that did not include a systems engineering lecture. Results show an increase in students’ self-assessed system engineering knowledge and perceived value of system engineering concepts/principles after the introductory lecture and at the end of the course, as well as an increase in applied systems engineering in the capstone projects. The conclusion is that systems engineering principles such as requirements development, applying the V-model, and configuration management may be a key component for multidisciplinary courses to improve learning outcomes. Future work will focus on systems engineering implementation in other multidisciplinary courses as well as improved means of exposing and encouraging students to use systems engineering.

Asher, Z. D., & Ramo, N. L., & Bradley, T. H. (2018, June), The Use of Systems Engineering Principles to Improve Learning Outcomes in a Multidisciplinary Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31134

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