The Historical Roots of the Field of Engineering Systems: Results from an In-class Assignment
Author(s)Magee, Christopher L.; Saari, Rebecca K.; Heaps-Nelson, G. Thomas; Zoepf, Stephen M.; Sussman, Joseph M.
The field of Engineering Systems (ES) is quite young but there are intellectual roots that go far back in time. At least that is the working hypothesis in an integrative capstone assignment given in the first doctoral subject for incoming ES PhD students at MIT. The assignment has been given for four years (2008-2011) and involves pairs of students researching the intellectual connections between a specific historical root and a specific modern ES method. This paper describes the faculty and student perspectives on the assignment, including the perceived learning outcomes, and insights gained into the roots of Engineering Systems. Some overall observations include: Interconnections among almost all selected topics (whether labeled roots or modern methods) are apparent. Each topic has an extensive time period of unfolding which gives rise to overlap and complex interactions among the topics; Herbert Simon’s work appears most pivotal in the roots of Engineering Systems. Jay Forrester, John von Neumann, Norbert Weiner and Joseph Schumpeter are also identified along with others as having a significant impact; The faculty always learn something about the field from what the students find even when topics are repeated; and, The assignment is a valuable – but not perfect – vehicle for learning about Engineering Systems and for launching budding researchers’ efforts in the field.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division
ESD Working Papers;ESD-WP-2012-05