Integrating Engineering Systems Research and Undergraduate Education Through A Term-Length Case Study
Author(s)Dunn, Travis P.; Stein, Naomi; Sussman, Joseph M.; Uniman, David
The MIT-Portugal Program (MPP) was launched in 2007 with the dual objectives of conducting innovative research and establishing leading academic degree programs through international collaboration across a range of technical disciplines. Among the first attempts to integrate the research and teaching objectives of the MPP was the Spring 2009 offering of Engineering System Design, a required course for third- and fourth-year undergraduates in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The course employed a semester-long case study, drawing heavily on active MPP transportation and engineering systems research for teaching and assignment content. On the research side, MIT has been engaged with partner universities and agencies in Portugal on a variety of topics related to high-speed rail (HSR). These varied efforts demand a unifying engineering systems framework to ensure that the research delivered provides maximal value both individually and as part of a broader program. The integrating engineering systems framework chosen (Complex, Large-Scale, Interconnected, Open, Socio-technical, or CLIOS Process) was taught in Engineering System Design and applied using an active research program as the case study context. After presenting the MPP and HSR research contexts, this paper summarizes the methodology used to implement the CLIOS Process in a classroom setting through an evolving, term-length group project that involved teaching and supervision by faculty and researchers. Next, the paper discusses the challenges of teaching engineering systems concepts to undergraduates, incorporating active research into a classroom setting, and managing large project groups. Finally, the paper summarizes the lessons learned from the course as well as prospects for future applications of engineering systems research in the classroom. It is hoped that those interested in designing undergraduate courses in engineering systems will benefit from the course’s lessons learned, both positive and negative, as summarized here.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division
ESD Working Papers;ESD-WP-2012-14