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Systems Engineering Short Course

The Caltech Systems Engineering short course provides comprehensive coverage of the field of systems engineering in the aerospace and defense industry. Participants will explore current industry best-practices and principles, to ensure robust, cost-effective designs that meet stringent functional, performance, and cost requirements.

This 3-day course is designed for the practicing engineer, or supporting team member, who wants an understanding of the unique challenges of developing high-tech systems. The program consists of lectures, case studies, and exercises completed during class. The materials reinforce key concepts and enable participants to apply the program content to challenges in their current work environment.

Program instructors are selected based upon their subject matter expertise combined with their practical systems engineering experience in industry and/or government agencies. They provide practical examples and lessons learned to create an exceptional learning environment for industry professionals.


  • Introduction - Terminology, Systems Thinking, Applicability Key SE Activities, DoD and NASA Acquisition Lifecycles, Today’s Challenges
  • Requirements Elicitation - Well-Stated Requirements, Requirement Elicitation Methods, Quality Function Deployment, Requirement Trade Studies
  • Documenting System Requirements - Proper Specification Language, Depth of Definition
  • Requirements Analysis - Context Diagrams, Functional Analysis, Design Structure Matrices, State Diagrams, Requirements Flowdown, Handoff to Subsystem Design
  • Requirements Validation - User Feedback Techniques, Requirements Reviews, Concept of Operations
  • System Architecture - Subsystem Definition, Hierarchical Analysis, Design for Reuse, Interface Management
  • Design Evolution - Technical Performance Measures, Design Trade Studies, Handling Requirements Changes
  • Specialty Engineering - Producibility/Manufacturability, Reliability/Availability, Maintainability/Serviceability, Usability/User Interface, Design-to-Cost
  • Verification & Validation - Inspection, Analysis, Demonstration, Test, Peer Reviews, Test Planning
  • Risk Management - SE’s Role, Identification, Assessment & Prioritization, Mitigation & Handling
  • Managing Systems Engineering - Estimating, Planning, Tracking, System Engineering Management Plan, Work Breakdown Structure, Technical Reviews


Tony Freeman, PhD; Ken Preston, DBA; Michael Sturgeon; Steve Wall