Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Introduction to Systems Engineering

ME 53501 / 3 Cr.

This course offers an examination of the principles of systems engineering and their application across the system life cycle. Special emphasis is given to concept exploration, requirements analysis and development, analysis of alternatives, preliminary design, integration, verification, and system validation. The students will use the international space station (on-orbit modules) for practical application of the principles introduced in this course. This is the first of two courses in systems engineering and is a prerequisite to the Systems & Specialty Engineering course. Both courses use the same text book and have a 15% overlap of the text material.


Benjamin S. Blanchard and Wolter J. Fabrycky, Systems Engineering and Analysis, 5th ed., Prentice Hall International Series in Industrial and Systems Engineering, (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-221735-4


Systems engineering is a multi-disciplinary methodology for solving the problem of developing knowledge, goods, and services (products) that are based upon a total systems view of the customer/user stated need and wants. This introductory course to systems engineering will explore the system life cycle, the principles of systems engineering, and how they are applied across the system life cycle. The student will establish a foundational understanding that will be vital for a degree in engineering management. Therefore, the course will emphasize the “first things” of the systems engineering process: concept exploration, requirements analysis, requirements development, analysis of alternatives, verification and validation, and how these integrate into the rest of the product development phases: preliminary design, detailed design, integration, verification, and system validation. Practical in-class exercises, class discussions, mock design reviews, after-class readings, and a foundational textbook will enhance student learning and application of the key principles.


After completion of this course, the students should be able to:

  1. Define systems engineering, the system life cycle phases, and the product development life cycle phases.
  2. Describe the general phase gates and reviews that comprise a product development life cycle, and how other disciplines contribute during this process.
  3. Describe the four types of system requirements, how they are elicited and used by the systems engineer during concept exploration phase.
  4. Write ‘good’ requirements and explain the characteristics of: a ‘good’ requirement, a suitable requirement management process, and enabling tools.
  5. Define functional analysis, decomposition, and requirement allocation, and their relationship to concept exploration and the later phases of the product development life cycle.
  6. Explain the similarities and differences between verification, validation, and their relationship to system integration.
  7. Describe and apply a general methodology for trade study and analysis of alternatives.
  8. Describe how integrated product teams and specialty engineering are used to achieve effective product development.
  9. Demonstrate an understanding of the purpose for phase gate reviews and how they relate to technical project management and systems engineering principles.

Note: The letters within the brackets indicate the general program outcomes of mechanical engineering. See: ME Program Outcomes.

  1. Overview of the systems engineering domain; definitions key to systems engineering; the system life cycle, and the product development life cycle.  (1.15 hrs)
  2.  Phase gate approach to product development enabled by application of systems engineering principles. (1.15 hrs)
  3. Concept Exploration and the four types of systems requirements that must be extracted from the customer’s statement of want and needs. (2.3 hrs) Dual nature of validation, and its differences from verification. (1.15 hrs)
  4. Requirement analysis, requirements development, and how these relate to planning for systems integration, verification and validation. (1.15 hrs)
  5. Functional analysis, interface analysis, requirement allocation, traceability, and use of commercial tools to enable effective application of SE principles in an integrated team environment. (1.15 hrs)
  6. Development of a master compliance matrix, a test and evaluation master plan, and use of technical performance measures in defining system performance. (1.15 hrs)
  7. Use of trade study methods for system definition. Applying these methods in concept exploration and system definition. (1.15 hrs)
  8. Modeling, simulation and systems analysis enable analysis of alternatives in concept exploration. (1.15 hrs)
  9. Applying specialty-engineering disciplines by the system engineer throughout the product development life cycle, and the system life cycle. Gaining practical experience in the use of reliability, system safety and human factors engineering. (1.15 hrs)
  10. Examining risk management concepts, techniques, and tools and their utility in the concept exploration phase, as well as carry-over utility into the later phases of the product development life cycle. (1.15 hrs)
  11. Exploring the technical management responsibilities and functions of the systems engineer applicable to the entire system and product development life cycles. (1.15 hrs)
  12. Examining the later stages of the product development life cycle after Concept Development and understand how knowledge development continues through the phases: preliminary design, detailed design, integration and test, system validation, full rate production. (1.15 hrs)
  13. Explore the ideas behind concurrent engineering, design for six sigma and total quality development as they apply to the systems engineering roles, responsibilities, and the development of high quality products in any market, industry or sector. (1.15 hrs)
  14. Explore the fundamentals of how an integrated product and process development system can enhance the application of systems engineering principles and what an engineer should look for in a company’s “people, methods, tools/processes, and environment (PMTE)”. (1.15 hrs)
  15. Class project briefings (oral & written work using principles from lectures, 5 phase gate review briefings).(12.0 hr)
  16. Two chapter tests are timed, in-class (2.0 hrs), 5 quizzes are timed (50 min.).

Students may choose to join the International Council on Systems Engineering for the Student  Fee of $10.00, and thus gain access to the 3rd Edition of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook, the Primer on Metrics, SE Handbook ver. 3.2, and all of the proceedings from the last 16 years of international symposia on systems engineering. These benefits are good for an entire calendar year. []

Students may choose to download a free copy of the Defense Acquisition University manual on systems engineering, Systems Engineering Fundamentals, Defense Acquisition University Press, January 2001. []

Charles S. Wasson, System Analysis, Design, and Development: Concepts, Principles, and Practices; Wiley-Interscience, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, NJ; 2006. ISBN-13 978-0-471-3933-7. [NOT a required text – highly useful for a career systems engineer, NOT testable]