Thursday, January 25, 2007

Last semester's responses: What is systems engineering?

I read the other papers (just beacuse) and tried to summarize them as best I could. If any of the paper authors are reading this post, I apologize for the butchery... it's hard to summarize an emerging field in a 3-page-paper, and even worse to squeeze it into 1-2 sentences.

Zach Brock: As a new discipline, it's hard to tell what systems engineering is; is there a "calculus" that systems engineers can be taught, or is it a collection of skills you're inherently good or bad at?

Luis Diego Cabezas: Systems engineers are the ones working on the project at the highest level of abstraction. We've traditionally taken "systems engineers" from other engineering disciplines, but we need to start training systems engineers in their own discipline from the start.

Cathy Murphie: Systems engineering is a black box; you don't know what goes on inside it, but what comes out of it is a solution that balances processes and people to satisfy both external (design requirements, environmental factors) and internal (inexperienced project team members, too-small budgets, short schedules) constraints. The toolbox of a systems engineer is lifelong learning.

Mark Penner: Systems engineering uses a top-down perspective to focus on the interfaces between components in order to make the whole more efficient.

Mike Siripong: The "universal" toolbox of systems is organizational management; gannt charts, system diagrams, etc because specific technical tools vary wildly from system to system. Systems engineers have a big picture perspective that lets them lead projects, especially in interdisciplinary debugging.

Matt Tesch: Systems engineers allow their teammates to specialize in their fields by taking over the "big picture" problems and facilitating communication and interfacing between specialty groups when appropriate.

Dan Rice: Systems engineering is the coordination of all the components of a system, and its "calculus" is high-level thinking; feedback loops, mathematical models, and other tools that will mature along with the field. Since systems engineers need to see the big picture, it makes sense to let them roam outside the traditional hierarchy so they have the freedom to do that, and for them to have "people skills" so they can work with many different groups at once.

Lee Edwards: Systems engineering is the interdisciplinary study of interactions of two or more technical components in order to solve human problems.

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