Friday, September 26, 2014
ECBC Engineers Find Invaluable Lessons in Naval Postgraduate School Master’s in Systems Engineering Program
“Well-trained systems engineers can play a very valuable role in the success of future Army programs,” said Joseph Siegel, the Multi-Sample Identifier Test Lead for the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance. “The time and monetary investment in our education by RDECOM will be paid back tenfold by the future work that we will deliver.”
Siegel was one of four ECBC Engineering Directorate employees who graduated from the NPS program on 20 June. He and Maureen Jacobs, Allen Lai and Cynthia Learn completed the 14 required courses and a three-quarter-long capstone project to earn their MSSEs. The program included courses on probability and statistics, engineering economics and cost estimation, system suitability, systems assessment, engineering project management, systems architecture and design, systems integration and development, systems software engineering, and system-of-systems engineering.
The mission of the NPS Department of Systems Engineering is to provide relevant, tailored and unique advanced education and research programs in systems engineering in order to increase the combat effectiveness of U.S. and Allied armed forces and to enhance the security of the United States.
This year’s graduates agreed that the program will provide significant value in completing their work for ECBC and its customers.
“The ability to look at an issue, determine the need and problem, define the requirements and analyze a solution is a lot of what is done in the engineering world,” said Jacobs, Individual Protection Team Lead with the Sustainment Engineering Division at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. “An education in systems engineering provides the knowledge and skills to approach an issue, problem or project with a stronger understanding of not only the process you need to apply, but also the factors that need to be addressed. There really is no single step-by-step guide; it is more of an adaptable methodology and an ingrained thought process and understanding, so when you approach a project you are addressing what is needed in order to provide a better solution as a whole, while still working within the limits of available resources.“
One of the first projects Jacobs was assigned during the coursework focused on addressing the lack of calcium available to people on a remote island. Jacobs said some students had a tendency to jump to a solution without actually defining the problem, need, stakeholder requirements or even the system itself. She said this project provided a valuable lesson in applying the systems engineering methodology in order to find a better solution, and put into perspective how systems can be defined in various ways.
Capstone projects complemented individual classroom learning and were a critical part of the experience, the participants said. Jacobs’ project originated from RDECOM and was based on a need from the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) to evaluate risk reduction activities. The capstone team focused on assessing the merit of the field-based risk reduction (FBRR) methodology within the traditional acquisition process.
“The capstone project was the most rewarding part of the program,” Jacobs said. “It provided an opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge gained throughout the program on a real-life project. The deliverables of the project are data, tools and models the project sponsor, CERDEC, greatly appreciated, as the information can be used for future projects as well as help support their current activities."
Siegel also said he gained invaluable experience from his capstone project, but the best aspect of his time studying at NPS was the exposure to other experts.
“The most rewarding part of the MSSE program was working with highly motivated, experienced and smart Army systems engineers,” he noted. “You learn as much from your peers as from the professors. Being part of this group of like-minded individuals and succeeding together was a very rewarding experience.”
Personal growth and career progression aren’t the only gains from the NPS MSSE. Talented systems engineers are critical to the success of ECBC and the Army in general, Siegel said. Having NPS-trained engineers within various organizations will help focus systems engineering activities and promote better practices.
“One of the most important aspects of the NPS program is that it provides a great opportunity to receive a higher-level education that is adaptable to the Department of Defense. Thus, there is a direct correlation to our work,” Jacobs said.
Photo Credit: Maureen Jacobs (ECBC)
Cindy Learn (left), Allen Lai (second from left), and Maureen Jacobs (far right) from the Engineering Directorate celebrate their graduation from the Naval Postgraduate School on June 20 alongside Kerry von Jacobi, Ephraim “Joe” Befecadu and Arborne Kent Guthrie from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. The group worked together on a capstone project as part of their curriculum. Joseph Siegel (not pictured), Engineering employee matrixed to the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM-NBC CA), also graduated from the program.