Human Capital Development
CAPT William Shepherd
The System Engineering Research Center Capstone Marketplace addresses critical challenges in developing the next generation of systems engineering (SE) talent for DoD and defense industry needs. The “marketplace” provides an avenue where academics can stimulate their undergraduate engineers to do some innovative thinking and systems analysis. The complexity of today’s defense systems is driving increased demand for both systems engineering talent and more effective system engineering processes in product and capability development. Today’s engineers must create systems resilient to unanticipated threats from creative adversaries; ones that show effective trades between cost, schedule and critical design factors, balance agility with rigorous data analysis, safeguard critical information, and integrate many components and subsystems to accomplish missions.
The Capstone Marketplace connects DOD units with academic teams and resources to address operator needs and technical problems often beyond the “bandwidth” of traditional research activities. The Marketplace helps to accurately specify research topic descriptions that promise academic challenges to students in their senior design coursework. The Capstone Marketplace and its personnel, chartered through earlier Research Tasks, mentor participants with comprehensive system engineering approaches to development, in a broad technical forum connecting academia, government, and industry.
SERC Capstone Marketplace efforts for the upcoming academic year (2020-2021) are focused on:
- Maintaining the momentum of established Capstone relationships with government and academia
- Increasing the relevance of academic work to government customer needs
- Developing transition plans with USSOCOM to transition selected Capstone efforts into formal SOCOM R&D efforts
- Introducing industry participation in SERC’s Capstone Marketplace projects
- Collaboration with other government academic outreach programs
Great engineers working in U.S. defense, aerospace, industry, and government sectors require technical depth, breadth, and leadership to deal with today’s complex systems. Traditionally, young engineers are formally trained at universities in specialized academic departments, with limited exposure to other engineering domains and practical leadership environments. Systems engineering, systems thinking, and detailed design techniques were traditionally introduced to students after graduation through industry training, mentoring and rotational assignments in the engineering workforce. The present undergraduate educational landscape is rapidly changing; “Project Based Learning” is being incorporated in many curricula. SERC’s Capstone Marketplace provides projects and opportunities to enrich students’ education and stimulates undergraduate Capstone teams in multidisciplinary approaches to important DoD problems.
Over the past 5 years, Capstone student projects have provided DOD customers new technical solutions of significant value, at very low cost. Student teams have occasionally outperformed traditional industry and government development organizations with fresh insights, novel approaches, and innovative solutions.
U.S. Special Operations Command in particular, has sponsored over 40 projects and has seen valuable results from Capstone efforts.
Previous Research and Current State
Previous SERC research (RT-19/19a and RT-43) has shown that multidisciplinary Capstone projects can enhance development of System Engineering (SE) competencies at the undergraduate level. RT-43 also established a pilot marketplace for Capstone engineering projects, allowing sponsors to post problems and receive proposals from student teams. RT-105 and RT-131 enhanced the marketplace concept and provided projects for six teams in the 2013-14 academic year and 10 teams in the 2014-15 academic year. After more modest Capstone project activity between 2015-2017, SERC moved to expand the marketplace for academic year 2017-2018 and particularly for 2018-2019 (RT 197). In the Spring Semester 2019, Capstone Marketplace teams finished 28 new projects at 12 universities, involving approximately 150 student engineers. Capstone Marketplace had set a 3-year goal to reach 30 schools conducting 50 projects, with 300 students by the end of the 2020-2021 academic calendar; the nationwide epidemic has hindered the expansion of the marketplace. For 2020-2021, 27 student teams from 10 universities are pursuing new Capstone Marketplace projects this academic year.
A vibrant forum connecting military operators, government personnel, and industry, that empowers innovation in the next generation of engineering students--the future workforce.
The Capstone Marketplace serves to:
- Harvest innovative ideas from military and government organizations
- Challenge student engineers to conduct valuable research and development
- Provide innovative solutions and incentives for follow-on developments
- Increase awareness of SE principles and applications for technology development
- Grow technical awareness on applied engineering problems among government and academic communities
The Strategies for the Capstone Marketplace are to:
- Address underserved research and development ideas, especially from junior members of the military
- Energize creative talents of engineering students to create new problem solutions
- Introduce students to system engineering thinking--without imposing elaborate SE processes
- Provide “sparse” resourcing to incentivize innovative approaches for problem solving
- Increase “bandwidth” of government R&D with relatively low-cost research and transition opportunities
- Create more “smart buyers” in operational levels of military and government departments
- Build a future engineering workforce
Learn more at the Capstone Marketplace website.
- SERC-2010-TR-008-1-Research on Building Education & Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering
- SERC-2011-TR-008-2-Research on Building Education & Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering
- SERC-2011-TR-008-3-Research on Building Education & Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering
- SERC-2012-TR-019-1-Research on Building Education and Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering
- SERC-2012-TR-019-2-Research on Building Education and Workforce Capacity in Systems Engineering
- SERC-2013-TR-037-1-Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace Pilot
- SERC-2013-TR-037-2-Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace Pilot
- SERC-2014-TR-037-3-Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace
- SERC-2017-TR-108-Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace
- SERC-2016-TR-102-Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace
- SERC-2019-TR-009-Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace