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Within the broad field of systems engineering, my passion is systems architecting and conceptual modeling. Systems architecting entails the understanding of the context, e.g. what do customers need, where will the solution operate, and relating that to potential solution to guide development of such solution. The ultimate goal is to achieve solutions that are fit-for-purpose.
A main challenge for systems architecting is coping with complex problems in complex contexts, with developments created in complex organizations. On top of that, we have to cope with things we are uncertain about, do not know (unknowns), or that are ambiguous and fast changing.
Altogether we have a challenge to mentally cope with all these factors. The main instrument that architects use in coping with that is the use of conceptual models. Conceptual models are simplified representations of reality capturing crucial relations, functions and behavior. Conceptual models are a mix of diagrams, formulas, graphs, numbers, and other visualizations.
Proficient architects seem to create and use such models seemingly without effort. How can we help younger people to develop similar capabilities? Architecting is one of the core methodologies that enables ESI’s mission: “Provide leading edge methodologies to the Dutch high-tech industry to cope with the ever increasing complexity of their products in order to sustain and expand its world leading position”.
Core of our study model is that students work and study concurrently. We continuously monitor and evolve the program pedagogics. This resulted in 12 pedagogic papers in the past 15 years, 2 papers in 2020 and 2021.
Our students apply a small part of the systems engineering body of knowledge in industrial practice, and evaluate the effectiveness. This model results in a steady stream of publications; in the last 10 years, we have published 23% (37 papers of 164 master projects in 10 years) of the papers at peer reviewed conferences. In 2019, one of the 5 published master project papers won the Brian Mar best student paper award at the INCOSE symposium.