February 7, 2014

Saylor Foundation, NASA Collaborate to Offer New Free Space Systems Engineering Course

WASHINGTON, DC, Date TBD - Space Systems Engineering, a new massive open online course or MOOC from NASA and the Saylor Foundation, launches on Monday, March 3, 2014. The six-week general-audience course is available to the public at no cost and provides a unique opportunity to learn from and alongside NASA's engineers. Students who participate can earn a free certificate.

The Space Systems Engineering MOOC, the result of a months-long collaboration between the non-profit Saylor Foundation, Washington, D.C. and personnel from NASA, examines basic systems engineering and teamwork as well as project life cycle, scoping, requirements, and trade studies. Foundation staff contributed technical, audio-video, and instructional design support, while course content consists of existing and augmented NASA materials.

Video lectures from personnel supporting the James Webb Space Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite missions at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., form the backbone of the lessons. NASA project manager Jeff Volosin, NASA mission systems engineer Mike Menzel, and Nobel Laureate Dr. John C. Mather will provide the lectures.

"This is a good way to understand the big picture of what system engineers do; you have to understand how you fit into the team," said Jeff Volosin, project manager for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission, one of the main instructors during the course. "Whether you are going to be a systems engineer or work with them you have some background because every engineer has to work in an area where systems engineering is a part of their life."
In producing this course, the Saylor Foundation stepped outside of its usual format to seize an opportunity deemed too good to pass up. David Rose, the foundation’s content analyst and project lead for the course, said, “Being able to partner with such a storied agency like NASA is truly exciting for us. Our shared goal of enabling the public to access useful, compelling information makes us natural collaborators. As with our other courses on Saylor.org, we have repurposed exceptional resources freely available on the web, but this time we have the support and guidance of the people behind those resources.”

That’s a distinction that pays real dividends to students, Rose says. “It has been extremely rewarding working with brilliant minds at NASA, and I encourage anyone – everyone – to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from them.”

Students can enroll prior to March at the course registration page and may also join the course at any point thereafter. Each week, registered students will receive an email detailing their assignments, questions for discussion, and opportunities to interact with one another and course designers, including NASA staff, through discussion forums.

Live Google+ Hangouts present a unique chance to engage with those behind the course; the first of several will be held on Friday, March. 7 with Jeff Volosin. Students who successfully complete the course (by passing a final exam) will receive a free certificate of completion. There will also be an optional project, and the winners of the project competition will be awarded a tour of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. as well as a Google+ Hangout with the instructors of the course. 

The many contributing materials to this course are all in the public domain and will remain on the Saylor Foundation's website indefinitely. Regardless of when they join the course, registered students will be able to revisit the materials whenever they wish and can incorporate the resources into other learning objects. In this respect, the Saylor Foundation's take on space systems engineering serves a continuing role as open courseware built entirely of open educational resources. The content for this MOOC was derived from a more extensive course developed by NASA engineer Lisa Guerra, during her tenure at The University of Texas at Austin. The original space systems engineering course is intended for undergraduate engineers as a supplement to their capstone design work.

Related Links
Enrollment: http://www.saylor.org/sse-enrollment-page/
NASA scientist interviews: http://www.saylor.org/scienceminded/

Guide to the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK), version 1.0, Released
Submitted by webmaster, Eric L. Day

The Guide to the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK), version
1.0, has been officially released in an online wiki format.  You can also
download a PDF version of the document from the site.  This guide is
intended for broad world-wide use. The guide consists of 7 parts broken
into 26 knowledge areas, with 112 topics. There are 5 use cases, 7 case
studies, and 6 vignettes.  Please check it out at:


Welcome to the Space Systems Engineering Website!

Sponsored by NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the Texas Space Grant Consortium.

The Space Systems Engineering website exists to disseminate curriculum materials to interested faculty. The systems engineering materials were developed by Lisa Guerra (NASA Headquarters / Exploration Systems Mission Directorate) and piloted in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The intent is for the curriculum to be transferable to other universities operating within NASA's Space Grant Consortium. The full systems engineering course, available here, was designed as a 3 credit hour prerequisite to the senior-level capstone spacecraft/mission design course.

The materials accessible on this website include:
• 27 systems engineering lecture modules
• Accompanying example assignments and exams
• Reference documents and handbooks from NASA and other government sources
• Additional recommended readings related to systems engineering
• 2 video lectures on being a systems engineer by Gentry Lee of JPL
• Links to companion websites of interest to the space systems engineer
• Presentations from NASA's Systems Engineering Workshop, which took place in October, 2008

At the undergraduate level, the goal is to teach the fundamentals of systems engineering such that future practicing engineers are familiar with the concepts and processes to be exercised further in the work environment. As stated in the first lecture: the course is not trying to make everyone who takes the course a systems engineer, but trying to give engineering students a systems perspective. The success of that goal is reflected in numerous quotes from the students in the pilot class, such as:

• "It was a ‘big picture' view of what we may be involved in as engineers of the future."
• "Taking this course makes an engineer realize there is much more to engineering than designing a given component to a set specification. This course really teaches all the factors that go into producing a viable space system, and some tools to achieve that end."
• "Everything we've learned will be applied to our jobs, regardless of the engineering position we will have."

As an interested visitor to this website, you are also welcome to add related content and discussion points. In addition, as NASA continues to sponsor the development of systems engineering curriculum, new materials will be included over time.

For additional information regarding the contents of this website, refer to the frequently asked questions section.

Gentry Lee Systems Engineering Videos

Link: Gentry Lee Videos
Gentry Lee's Biography


"Systems engineering is the art and science of developing an operable system that meets requirements within imposed constraints. Systems engineering is holistic and integrative. Systems engineering is first and foremost about getting the right design - and then about maintaining and enhancing its technical integrity, as well as managing complexity with good processes to get the design right." - Excerpt from "The Art and Science of Systems Engineering" Download (PDF)


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