Tuesday, September 30, 2014

President's Message

As the year draws down, I thought I would reflect on what being a Systems Engineer means to me.  You may have heard the CNN story about Systems Engineering being America's best job.  Despite having gone through two downturns as a Systems Engineer, transitioning between defense reconnaissance to offensive weapons systems and recently to medical devices, I still believe this to be true.  The practice of systems engineering involves a multidisciplinary view to solve problems which continues to expand my knowledge and appreciation for all of these individual practices and it sure is not boring!
  Individual Practices Contributing to Systems Engineering

My personality type is introvert; but I find the opportunity to work closely with a team to understand the user’s need, synthesize a design to address it and present it to them to validate that we correctly identified a solution to be extremely rewarding.  There are ample examples where systems engineering was not applied and the resulting solution fell short as seen below.

Solutions Lacking Systems Engineering

While degrees in Systems Engineering are being offered, I became a Systems Engineer through career development.  I do not recall when I was given the job title of Systems Engineer because I believe that I have always looked under the covers of every job I have worked on to understand how my contribution benefits the whole system.  I am disappointed to say that I have not progressed on my intention stated in June newsletter to pursue my SEP certification.  Between work, family and my duties as president, I have not found the time nor energy necessary to complete the application, contact references and study the INCOSE Handbook.  However, I want to acknowledge Clark Ince, Chapter Treasurer, who did earn his CSEP.

I am interested in hearing from you and welcome feedback on what the chapter can do to meet your interests and needs.  Also, as the end of the year is near, if you are interested in volunteering to be an officer or director for the chapter, please contact myself or any of the current officers. The current list of officers can be found here: http://www.incose.org/sfbac/officers.html

By Rollie Olson

Upcoming Membership Meetings: October & November

The INCOSE SFBAC will be holding meeting on October 13 and November 10, 2014. Information on speakers, topics, and location will be posted on our chapter's Schedule of Events page: http://www.incose.org/sfbac/schedule.html

Improved Traceability of Mission Concept to Requirements Using Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) a Thesis Summary

Model Based Systems Engineering has recently been gaining significant support as a means to improve the “traditional” document-based systems engineering (DBSE) approach to engineering complex systems.  There are many perceived and proposed benefits of an MBSE approach, including enhanced communications, reduced development risks, improved quality, and increased productivity (A Practical Guide to SysML, 2nd Ed.).  However, while many groups have published descriptions of their early modeling efforts or potential benefits from those efforts, little analysis has been presented to determine the experienced benefits of such an approach.  The goal of this thesis summary is to present direct examples of how developing a small satellite system model can improve traceability of the mission concept to its requirements.

A comparison of the processes and approaches for MBSE and DBSE was made using the NASA Ames Research Center SporeSat mission as a case study.  SporeSat, a 3U CubeSat launched in April 2014, performed a 3-day experiment in low-Earth orbit to study fern spore growth in varying gravity environments.  Mission concept and requirements documentation from the early mission development phases, in the form of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents, were used to create a model of the mission using the Systems Modeling Language (SysML) standard and No Magic’s MagicDraw modeling tool.  SysML’s “dependencies” depict the various relationships between model elements.  Dependency Matrices help to analyze the completeness and consistency of the requirements to the mission concept.  These matrices made it possible to quickly check for holes or extra information in the mission concept and requirements.

The model consisted of different types of diagrams to depict the structure and behavior of the SporeSat mission.  The main dependencies used to relate the mission elements include the Satisfy, Trace, and Allocate relationships.  A process for tracking potential issues with the model’s completeness and consistency was implemented using the Problem and Comment stereotypes of SysML.  In the following figure, the Satisfy and Trace relationships are used to relate Activity and Constraint model elements to Requirements, and a Problem is linked between a Requirement and the Activity that traces to it.  The Satisfy dependency was used to indicate that a Requirement was properly satisfied by some structural or behavioral element of the mission concept model.  The Trace dependency worked similarly, except it indicated some sort of problem with the relationship between the related elements.  The Problem contained an explanation of the issue suggested by the Trace dependency.

Problems could also be tracked in a Dependency Matrix, allowing for the modeler to quickly determine how many problems existed in the model.  Interviews were conducted with the SporeSat Lead Systems Engineer (SE) to analyze the nature of each problem and ultimately assign each Problem a specific designation, described below.  Once a problem had been fully understood and categorized via this designation, its stereotype would be changed from Problem to Comment.  The Dependency Matrix could be monitored throughout this process to determine which, and how many, Problems had yet to be analyzed.   For instance, at the time of capture, the example Dependency Matrix below still contained two unaddressed Problems (circled in red). 

A Satisfy/Trace dependency matrix was created to track the status of all mission requirements; each Satisfy and Trace relationship would appear on the matrix as an arrow pointing from the mission element to the requirement it satisfied or traced to.  Any requirement without at least one Satisfy or Trace relationship tied to it would lack an arrow pointing to it, as well as have a blank in the package summary column below it (see requirements circled in red below).

In the span of the two-month long modeling process, a total of 41 problems were created and addressed concerning the completeness and/or consistency of the mission concept.  Fourteen of these were resolved, having been caused by a simple lack of understanding of the mission or a lack of accessible information.  The other twenty-seven issues were considered “unresolved,” meaning they were real problems with the mission concept as provided in the original documentation.  These problems were categorized as shown:

Unresolved Problems
Vague Implication
Missing, implied information
Not Verifiable as Written
Requirement that, as written, cannot be verified
Model elements that repeat each other
(usually requirements)
Nomenclature Inconsistency
Different terms used for the same thing,
or the same term used for different things
Outdated Documentation
Inconsistency due to documentation
not being updated together

The SporeSat Lead SE already knew about the problems prior to the modeling process.  While the model did not present any unknown problems, it did prove its usefulness for identifying and highlighting potential issues with a mission concept.  The dependency relationships and associated matrices emphasized holes and extra information in the mission concept, as well as helped to identify and track unsatisfied requirements.  Though all the problems in the model were previously identified by the team, the model highlighted the potential for issues to exist that they were not aware of and its ability to assist the modeler in finding those issues.

By Robin Reil

SFBAC Money Matters

I am pleased to provide an update on the chapter’s finances, in my role as the SFBAC Treasurer.  Our chapter is fortunate to be in a strong financial position, with over $44,000 in our accounts with Wells Fargo Bank.  This article summarizes the income and expenses associated with chapter activities over the two years that I have been Treasurer.

Table 1 shows the balances in our bank accounts as of September 2014.  These funds have enabled the chapter to pursue its many activities, which primarily involve meetings, projects, and participation at INCOSE conferences.  The CD has a six-month term and was renewed on 5 June 2014 at an interest rate of 0.1%.
Table 1.  SFBAC Bank Account Balances.

Chapter income is largely provided by INCOSE Headquarters, based on a portion of the revenue INCOSE receives from SFBAC membership renewals and a share of the income derived from the annual International Symposium and Workshop (IS and IW).  SFBAC income over the last two years was $8905, received in four payments, with values ranging from $1900 to $2675.  We occasionally receive income from seminars or workshops that SFBAC may present, but these are small amounts and occur irregularly.  No Other Income was collected in the past two years.

The expenses incurred by the SFBAC’s activities are summarized in Table 2 and illustrated in Figure 1.  Over 90% of chapter expenses are seen to be associated with meetings and conferences.  The Conference Attendance line shows the costs incurred to sponsor member attendance at the IS and IW over two years.  This is 68% of our expenditures.  Meeting Expenses represent the cost of holding our monthly chapter meetings and the Transformational Systems Engineering workshops.  These involve refreshments and occasionally the rental of meeting space.
Table 2.  Two Years of Chapter Expenses.
Marketing costs are associated with spreading the word about SFBAC activities.  The chapter maintains a membership in the Silicon Valley Engineering Council (SVEC) and has a representative attend their meetings.  For a nominal annual dues payment, SFBAC represents INCOSE in SVEC activities and at the prestigious annual Silicon Valley Engineers Week Banquet and the SVEC Hall of Fame.  Marketing funds are also used to cultivate interest in Systems Engineering and INCOSE among engineering students at universities.  The Miscellaneous costs are small and cover postage, envelopes, and bank fees.

Figure 1.  Breakdown of Expenses.
Comparison of the two-year chapter income and expenses shows that expenses have exceeded income by $5060, averaging $2530/year.  This primarily results from the SFBAC Board of Directors’ decisions to sponsor member attendance at the IW and IS, which is investing in our people and the overall international organization.  Great benefits are attained by sharing ideas at these large meetings.  The Board will continue to carefully weigh the use of chapter funds to gain the most benefit for its membership and the Systems Engineering profession.  As you can see, the chapter continues to be in a solid financial footing to continue our activities.

By Clark Ince

The Tech Museum of Innovation Needs Volunteers Like You! (Downtown San Jose)

Do you have a desire to learn and teach others about science and technology? If so, The Tech might be the perfect place for you to volunteer. 

The Tech Museum of Innovation is no ordinary museum, and our volunteers are not ordinary museum docents. The Tech serves a diverse population, including international visitors, local families, and school groups. We often have over 1,000 students visiting the museum for field trips on a given day. Volunteers have the opportunity to staff exhibits and interact with museum visitors. A typical day could include helping guests experience the power of major world earthquakes, leading kids in simple hands-on science projects, or letting visitors feel what maneuvering in space is like in the "Jet Pack" simulation. 

You don't have to be a teacher or an engineer to succeed as a volunteer. We provide hands-on training and mentor-ship to ensure your success. If you are 18 or older, enjoy talking and working with people, we know you'll enjoy joining our close-knit community of Silicon Valley supporters.

If you are trying to volunteer around a busy schedule, we have the perfect fit for you. We are looking for volunteers to come in for evening events. You just have to volunteer for at least two evening events per month.

We also have regular (weekly or biweekly) shifts, from 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. or 12:30 - 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday.
**Immediate Need for Tuesday (8:30am – 1:00pm)**

Benefits of volunteering include: 
* Free museum entry and educational IMAX films
* Free downtown parking during your volunteer shift
* Discount on special traveling exhibits for you and your family 
* Discount in the store, cafe, and Blockbuster IMAX films 
* Ongoing training and support for an exciting and rewarding volunteer experience
* Meeting a diverse group of co-volunteers and guests

If you are interested in volunteering, please complete an online application, located on our website: 
http://www.thetech.org/about-us/volunteer. If you have questions, please get in touch with us at (408) 795-6205 or email info@thetech.org.