What is systems design engineering?

The Department of Systems Design Engineering is a unique interdisciplinary department in the Faculty of Engineering that offers an accredited engineering program that gives students a full complement of courses in the engineering sciences as well as an unmatched set of courses to learn about and practice engineering design. We offer an educational program for engineering students wanting to learn how to address and solve problems that transcend traditional boundaries in engineering. Modern engineering projects are comprised of elements from all the traditional engineering disciplines and these elements must be integrated into a functioning whole to meet the overall design objectives.

Systems Design Engineering teaches the student how to acquire and integrate knowledge across multiple disciplines. The framework we use to do this is systems theory through which we view the world as comprising systems that interact. Examples of the systems we may consider include human physiological and psychological systems, ecological systems, transportation systems, communication systems, energy systems and mechatronic systems. It is through systems thinking, modeling and analysis that we learn to know the world.

Solving engineering problems often requires the modification or creation of systems. The process we use to do that is design practice – the skills of creative problem solving, and interdisciplinary teamwork for innovation and synthesis. Systems design engineering is characterized by its philosophy, methods, and approaches to solving problems that are intrinsically multi-disciplinary. By considering the objective and subjective performance requirements a design solution is created that meets the needs of the customer, the user and society. The very feasibility of today's most demanding engineering projects may depend on the balanced insight that is needed to assemble the best combination of human and technical resources to fulfill the required objectives. This is the kind of knowledge provided by the department of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

Finally, systems design engineering prepares the student for leadership in a complex technological society that requires interdisciplinary thinking capability to meet future needs for complex, balanced decision-making.