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ESE251: Introduction to Systems Science and Engineering

Starting in 2010 the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering will offer a revised version of its introductory course to Systems Science and Engineering. “Systems” are complex interwoven objects that evolve in time and include many aspects, often ranging from a micro to a macro scale. The aim of the course is to introduce students from a broad and novel perspective to the main concepts of systems theory that allow modeling, analysis, and possibly control of systems. We shall use challenging topics of current interest (e.g., global warming, financial markets, cancer treatment, …) as focus areas to discuss and investigate the principal elements of systems theory and how a systems theoretic perspective possibly could be useful in the analysis of these problems. For example, this includes identification of the underlying dynamics, time-invariant versus time-varying structures, how to deal with uncertainty, prediction, filtering of noisy and corrupt data, control mechanisms, feedback, optimization aspects, and many more. No specific background is required, but a general openness to ideas and current events is expected. Some mathematical background will be provided, but it is not the aim of this course to develop the tools of systems theory. Grading will be based on essays and presentations, not on tests. Student initiated topics for small projects that fit with this overall outlay of the course are welcome.

Tentative course description:

The course consists of various modules that introduce the students to fundamental ideas and concepts from systems theory. The modules will be topic oriented, interdisciplinary units that describe underlying problems and show how system theoretic ideas and concepts are vital in the modeling and analysis of the problems. Topics for the modules will have both a local or micro and a global or macro aspect to it and come from various areas of science and engineering. They will include (i) climate (local weather forecasts versus global warming), (ii) economies (individual investment decisions versus management of a country’s economy, carbon trading), (iii) medicine (tumor development versus treatment approaches), and (iv) a flight control system (path planning and classical local control approaches like an auto-pilot). Some of the topics juxtapose global and unsolved, potentially unsolvable problems against specific and fully understood components. Integration of local aspects into a global system will be discussed. Following the discussions of the modules in class, students are expected to research and present small projects from these areas. Literature will be provided. The topic modules will be complemented by interwoven lectures that give an introduction to the background on mathematical tools needed for the formation and analysis of models. These include (i) dynamics and differential equations, (ii) elements of matrix algebra and (iii) aspects of uncertainty (both deterministic and stochastic).

Contact: Heinz Schaettler, Cupples II, rm 106A, hms@wustl.edu

Washington University in St. Louis School of Engineering & Applied Science, Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering

Green Hall, CB 1042, 1 Brookings Drive, Saint Louis, MO, USA 63130
Phone: (314) 935-5565, Fax: (314) 935-7500

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