Thursday, March 27, 2014

INCOSE Student Division IIE Western Regional Conference

I visited the University of Arizona (UoA) in Tucson, Arizona late in 2103; I was overcome by the exuberance and enthusiasm of the students engaged in their new student division. I was quickly educated on the formation of the UoA student division, beginning with membership in the International Industrial Engineers (IIE) student program. These student members and department executives presented their program, organization, marketing, and the IIE awards program. I requested these students to present their program at the INCOSE International Workshop (IW). The students attended the Academic Council meeting and the Student Division workshop where the students made me aware that the Western Regional Conference was being held at the California State Polytechnic University Pomona (CPP) in 2014. 

Although my purpose was to attend the Western Regional Conference (IIEWRC) for evaluation purposes from a student’s perspective, I also attended the Society of Women Engineers ‘Acceptance’ symposium where I became a panelist for the day.

While on the CPP campus I met with Dr. Massoud Moussavi, PHD.,P.E. , Professor Harder, and Assistant Professor Saeideh Fallen-Fini who is the advisor to the CPP INCOSE Student Division. I was a guest reviewer at a local preliminary design review for the students developing a concrete boat for competition. 

The IIEWRC began on Friday night with a research paper competition. Three papers were selected from the six universities in attendance with each primary author presenting the information and answering questions from the three judges representing assorted professions related to IIE. The presenters are shown in the photo above. This was followed by an informal dinner where the students socialized the remainder of the night.

On Saturday, the main conference included introduction of the IIE Student Chapter followed by a student icebreaker to encourage the students to participate in the conference.
Presentations were made by an assortment of presenters from Disney, the LA Department of Transportation, a medical company, and professors.

The students also were given the task to create something from a ‘kit’ of provided parts, which were then described to the audience to the amusement of all.  The students networked together throughout the conference. The conference concluded with a semi-formal dinner including a guest speaker who illustrated the power of education and the use of engineering tools applied to solve complex problems. 

By David Mason, CSEP
INCOSE Assistant Student Division Director
David Mason's Bio       

President's Message: Experience of Systems of Systems Successes and Failures

The Systems of Systems working group in INCOSE is endeavoring to understand the successes and failures of programs compiling a body of knowledge. This will improve the practice of systems engineering and will enable future programs to be successful.  I had the experience of being involved in the US Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) from the initial subcontract with the vehicle developers until the program was canceled.  I wanted to share some of the successes and failures that I noted. 

From the get go, leadership was a challenge. The vehicle developers were unaccustomed to being subcontractors and the Lead System Integrator lacked familiarity with the US Army.  Also within the US Army there were challenges with coordination between the multiple programs.  The manned and unmanned vehicle programs both relied heavily on the modernization of the communications program to be effective; however, the communications program did not rely as heavily on the vehicles.  The acquisition office premise was that a smaller force could be effective by seeing first and acting with precision but the operational units’ experience was things do not go as planned and overwhelming force is required.

The program was successful at engaging the operational units to provide continuous feedback during the development.  Officers and enlisted personnel were stationed with each of the vehicle contractors.  This was an invaluable asset to get clarifications on operations and feedback on concepts.  A crucial design constraint on the vehicle was size and weight to support rapid deployment through air transport.  As a consequence, the vehicle was unable to provide the vehicle commander with a position that would provide head out views.  To overcome this, the design relied on indirect vision.  The feedback from the soldiers was that this would be a severe limitation not only in the commanders situation awareness but also on force projection.  Eye contact with population can be as much of a deterrent as show of a weapon.

There were numerous capabilities required which exceeded the technology readiness level.  As stated, situation awareness was going to rely on indirect vision, cameras, feeding video to monitors.  While this technology is effectively employed in providing security to a fixed position, on a moving platform this will be very disorienting and there was concern about the reliability and defensibility of the sensors.  Indirect vision was also to be a design concept for driving the vehicles.  I had the opportunity to test drive a vehicle both day and night with indirect vision and while I was able to achieve all of the objectives of the test drive without the safety drivers intervention, direct vision is preferable.

To overcome some weaknesses in situation awareness, the program was integrating advanced automatic protection weapons systems.  This was one of the more classified elements due to the fact that disclosure could allow weaknesses to be found and exploited by an enemy.  Prototypes of these weapons systems were developed and tested early and results were promising.  Some of these programs have been continued for integration on existing platforms.

I supported the development of the common crew station that would be used by all of the manned vehicles.  This concept of commonality was expected to pay huge dividends in reduced complexity and logistics support.  There were several other subsystems that would be common to the vehicles.  At the start of the program, the vehicle subcontractors were to have shares in each subsystem.  This proved to be very challenging to coordinate and it was scraped. Instead the subsystems were divided up to the vehicle subcontractors. 

I continued to work on the common crew station which as one would imagine had substantial user interaction.  The Human Systems Integration was very proactive in defining requirements and assessing concepts.  While challenged with indirect vision, the other elements of the workstation were strongly influenced by the ergonomics to operate and maintain the vehicle and the cognitive workload to perform the tasks with a reduced number of soldiers from current force.  Modeling was used very effectively to evaluate ergonomics aspects and mockups were built to simulate and evaluate. 

While the FCS program was canceled, there are valuable lessons that I learned about Systems of Systems.  Effecting a change in areas like leadership would be well beyond my scope but learning how the programs are structured to identify where the leadership exists and then trying to influence the leadership is possible.  Leapfrogging technology is never a good idea on large scale but incremental insertion is possible.  Early and continued engagement with customer not only ensures that will deliver what customer needs but also builds trust.  Understanding the complexities of how humans interact with the systems is not trivial, something as trivial as alphabetizing can be misunderstood.

If anyone has an experience you would care to share or have differing opinions, contact myself or use the "Contact Us" form to the right.

By Rollie Olson