Information for

Systems Design Engineering at Waterloo

Are you interested in a broad range of areas that don't fit into a traditional area of engineering? Then consider Systems Design Engineering, our most flexible Engineering program.

You'll learn to apply engineering principles to wherever humans interact with technology - environmental systems, robotics, and computer and interface design. The methods and approaches you'll learn are applicable to the design of almost any product, tool, task, or system.

The "Systems" in the name reflects the fact that we take a "big picture" approach to problem solving. You'll learn to look at a system as a whole before attempting to solve the problem. See how one change will affect another element of the system.

Explore and apply design principles in the Systems Design Workshop, get involved with a student design team such as the Midnight Sun solar car, and work on design projects of your own choosing in your upper years. To complement your required Engineering courses, you can choose from 200 elective courses.

Students holding mechanical device

Try out different career areas and graduate with 2 years of work experience through co-op work terms. You'll alternate 4-month school terms with paid co-op work terms and earn money to help pay for your education.

About Systems Design Engineering

  • Available as a co-op program only
  • Starts in first year so apply directly to this program on your application
  • Earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering
  • Offered by the Faculty of Engineering

Admission requirements

  • Ontario students: 6 Grade 12 U and/or M courses including
    • Advanced Functions (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • Calculus and Vectors (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • Chemistry (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • Physics (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • English (ENG4U) (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
  • Admission averages: Individual selection from the mid-80s
  • An Admission Information Form is required
  • Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements database

First-year courses

September to December

SYDE 101/SYDE 101L - Introduction to Systems Design Engineering/Graphics Laboratory
SYDE 111 - Fundamental Engineering Math 1
SYDE 113 - Matrices and Linear Systems
SYDE 121 - Digital Computation
SYDE 161 - Introduction to Design
SYDE 181 - Physics 1

May to August

SYDE 102 - Seminar
SYDE 112 - Fundamental Engineering Math 2
SYDE 114 - Numerical and Applied Calculus
SYDE 162 - Human Factors in Design
SYDE 182 - Physics 2 (Dynamics)
SYDE 192/192L- Digital Systems/Lab
One Complementary Studies Elective Course

What other courses will you take?


By alternating school terms and paid co-op work terms throughout your degree, you can explore new career areas and types of employers as your career interests evolve.

Sample co-op positions

  • Technical Analyst - Investment IT, Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan Board
  • Ice Model Research Assistant, Environment Canada
  • Product Design/Development, Sweet Caesar Inc
  • Network Planning Assistant, Rogers Communication Inc.
  • Systems Engineering Associate (Co-op), Mark IV Industries
  • International Growth, Facebook
  • Rapid Prototype Software Developer, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Inc

Co-op work/study sequences

  Fall Winter Spring
First year School Co-op School
Second year Co-op School Co-op
Third year School Co-op School
Fourth year Co-op School Co-op
Final year School School  

Fall = September to December, Winter = January to April, Spring = May to August
School = 4-month school term
Co-op = 4-month co-op work term


Recent graduates

  • Applications Engineer, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc.
  • Consultant, Deloitte & Touche LLP
  • Technology Consulting Analyst, Accenture Inc.
  • Business Systems Analyst, CIBC
  • Co-Owner and CEO, Vidyard
  • Co-Founder and CTO, Kik Interactive Inc.
  • Management Consultant, IBM Canada
  • IT Business Analyst, Toronto-Dominion Bank
  • Health Business Consultant, TELUS Health

Possible professional designation

Learn more about Systems Design Engineering