On May 28, 2021, the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) awarded the research task “WRT-1043: DAU – Digital Engineering Simulation” to the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC). This is a brand new, year-long effort with potential for two additional years led by Principal Investigator Dr. Nicole Hutchison, Stevens Institute of Technology, alongside co-Principal Investigators Dr. Dinesh Verma, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Dr. Peter Beling, Virginia Tech.
The task aims to develop a digital engineering simulation environment that will be incorporated into the digital engineering related curriculum at DAU. The simulation environment will balance necessary depth (varying levels of abstraction – from mission-level models to physics-based models/parametric models) and breadth (multiple domains and disciplines) to convey the richness of possibilities and the potential benefits of transforming engineering and systems engineering via digital engineering.
The architecture of the simulation will provide for extensions and changes, depending on future enhancements such as a cyber security or logistics module, to show students the use of digital engineering across multiple acquisition-related disciplines and across a system’s lifecycle. These approaches will take into account significant design and operation issues that arise in the utilization of the notional weapons system, including: (1) consideration of what data is collected for input; (2) what configuration (subsystem) is fielded for data collections; and (3) what update rate is required for assessing the collected information. The approach will also consider important aspects of the impact that the digital thread can have on acquisition methodologies, including: (1) the ability to conduct tests after the system is fielded; (2) signaling of the need for system updates; and (3) early recognition of safety or cyber-related problems that require system modifications. Such capabilities are expected to grow in importance as systems increasingly rely on artificial intelligence (AI).
Furthermore, consideration of the complexity of a problem, the technological and engineering response, and the problem’s overarching context will result in simulations that recreate real-world constraints and operational scenarios. This development will leverage the research already conducted within the SERC to realize cost and schedule efficiencies and will enable the transformation of the pedagogical approach within the systems engineering educational ecosystem in general and DAU in particular to provide students, faculty, practitioners, and researchers with a digital engineering environment and asset that can support the continued transition of the DoD and the related defense industrial base. It is an aspiration of this project that this digital engineering simulation environment could provide a common touchstone for numerous aspects of the DAU curriculum into the future. In this regard, the simulation should be architected in a manner that allows future extensibility into additional disciplinary areas.
Finally, the simulation is being designed for use in DAU’s learning environment using virtual led instruction in both synchronous and asynchronous modes.
Within the SERC Research Strategy, the research directly addresses the ‘Human Capital Development’ (HCD) research area, particularly the ‘Evolving Body of Knowledge’ program area.