Research Seminar in Engineering Systems

Professor David A. Mindell

Fall, 2001

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Systems in many respects resemble machines. A machine is a little system, created to perform, as well as to connect together, in reality, those different movements and effects which the artist has occasion for. A system is an imaginary machine invented to connect together in the fancy those different movements and effects which are already in reality performed.

Adam Smith.


Course Information         Weekly Syllabus        Books    

Course Notebook in engineering Systems 

This course examines core approaches and methodologies that define the new approach to engineering termed Engineering Systems. It includes a historical review of the development of systems thinking, analysis of the so-called systems sciences: Control Theory, System Engineering, Systems Analysis, Operations Research, Cybernetics, Systems Dynamics, General Systems Theory, World Systems Theory, and Complexity Theory and Complex Adaptive Systems (among others). Then, the course analyzes major work in engineering fields and how systems approaches are used in those arenas: manufacturing, logistics and transportation, system design and management, product development, the internet, telecommunications. Major researchers and professors in these fields will participate as guests. Themes include definitions of systems, relationship of engineering systems to "engineering science," handling of complexity, qualitative and quantitative methods for analysis, synthesis, optimization, the relationship between open and closed systems, and the relationships between technical systems and social and industrial context. 

This is a research seminar, which means professor and students together are exploring a broad terrain, making new connections, and identifying fruitful avenues for research. Thus the emphasis is on student research, presentations, and discussion, building a knowledge-base, and raising new questions. In consequence, after the first few weeks, the details of the syllabus will be defined by students as the course progresses.