Technical Report: Research on Building Education & Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering

Report Number: Final Technical Report SERC-2012-TR-019-2

Report Name: Research on Building Education & Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering

Publication Date: September 30, 2012


Executive Summary

RT-19A, Research on Building Education & Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering, is the second phase of a two-year research study whose goal is to understand the impact of diverse capstone courses that exposed undergraduate and graduate engineering majors to authentic Department of Defense (DoD) problems and engaged them in the learning and practice of systems engineering, and outcomes related to systems engineering careers and interest. Over an 18-month, three-phase effort from April 2011 to September 2012 that encompassed course planning, implementation, and analysis, participating RT-19A schools and the research team explored methods and approaches to augment the systems engineering workforce for future DoD and related industry workforce needs.
The strategic goals addressed by this research are twofold: to understand the institutional challenges and successes in the adoption of core elements of successful systems engineering capstone projects; and to examine the contexts and program characteristics leading to highly successful student team-developed products and artifacts that respond to authentic Department of Defense (DoD) problem areas. To produce the following report, the research team gathered data from student pre and post surveys in order to analyze the impact of the systems engineering capstone project on student learning of systems engineering, student interest in systems engineering careers, and student awareness/interest in authentic DoD problems. In addition, this report also contains input gathered from surveys submitted by PIs and mentors, and from observations and interviews taken from a systems engineering capstoneconference June 2012.
Institutions were selected for participation through a competitive application process based on a set of criteria developed in consultation with the sponsor, and partners were awarded a subcontract for the development, implementation, analysis, and reporting on their systems engineering capstone project. Altogether, sixteen schools were selected to participate in the RT- 19A effort: six Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) member universities, four service academies, and six partner schools. In the first year of this study fifteen systems engineering capstone courses were developed and implemented at six military institutions and eight civilian universities affiliated with the Systems Engineering Research Center. Ten of those schools returned to participate in this year’s effort.
The capstone courses were organized around SPRDE-SE systems engineering competencies and selection of Department of Defense problem areas. Five topic areas illustrating authentic DoD problems were presented for student teams’ projects. Problem areas #2 and 4 (see Table 3 for more complete description) were the most researched topics, with more than half the projects addressing one of the two problem areas. Selection of problem areas was based on student research interest, expertise of participating faculty, or the decision to continue capstone designs
from the prior year. Institutions organized their teams in different ways. The most common structure included several teams each working on a subsystem.