SYST 490/495 Senior System Design Project (2002/2003)


Instructor: Dr. George L. Donohue

Office: Rm 121 S&T II

Lecture: Science and Tech II Rm 128

Time: MW 09:00 – 10:15

Lab: Rm 16 Central Module

Office Hours: Monday 10:30 to 12:00, 13:30 to 16:30

                        Wednesday 10:30 to 12:00


Text: Making Hard Decisions: with Decision Tools R.T.Clemen and T.Reilly, Duxbury, 2001 (includes software)


Project Management in Practice, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer and Sutton, John Wiley and Sons, 2001 (includes software)


Objective:  These two courses, together, provide the Capstone experience to the Systems Engineering undergraduate program.  It provides the students with the opportunity to put all of the course material that you have covered in the last 4 years into practice.  It also provide the faculty with the opportunity to test your ability to have assimilated the course material and certify that you are ready to receive the Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering.  In addition to providing you the opportunity to utilize the systems engineering processes (e.g. requirements determination, work-breakdown structures, Pert Charts, test and evaluation, life cycle costing, etc.) it will require you to use your analytical skills in system modeling, simulation and decision making.  Emphasis in these courses will also be placed on written and verbal communication skill development and the creative process of engineering design.  You now have the basic skills that should allow you to create new systems that are technically sound, affordable, environmentally compatible and safe.  You will be asked to determine whether a Business Case exits for your designs in the Program Proposal that you will submit in late November.  You will be required to manage a complex, unstructured project using the management and teamwork skills that you have developed.  The class will be divided into four project teams, each working on a real transportation problem.   Each student MUST maintain a personal log of all design activity, to be inspected upon demand.  You MUST submit a weekly time sheet to your team timekeeper to be submitted at all major program reviews.  All teams will be entered into inter-scholastic senior design competitions at the end of the Spring Semester.  GMU has a history of doing very well in these competitions, I expect the same or better from you.


Design Projects:


A.  Design and Test an Airport Slot Auctioning System.  The System should provide for both long-term strategic auctions as well as real-time spot auctions.


The saturation of the commercial Hub and Spoke air transportation system is leading the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice to consider auctioning time slots at major US airports.  The air transportation network is a complex adaptive system that exhibits strong non-linear behavior.  The Federal government has overall responsibility to maintain a safe and efficient air transportation system.  The airlines must maintain financial viability and invest in capital resources to purchase and operate a fleet of aircraft.  Since the 1978 deregulation of the airline industry, the airlines determine their schedule.  National investment in airport infrastructure has not kept up with the demand for air transportation. 


References and Data Sources:

1.      METRON Aviation, MITRE CAASD, DoT and FAA data bases

2.      Donohue, G. The U.S. Air transportation System: A Bold Vision for Change, August 2002.

3.      Auctioning Airport Slots: A Report for HM Treasury and the Department  of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, DotEcon Ltd, 105-106 New Bond Street, London W1s1DN, ( January 2001.


B.  GMU Campus Parking Slot Auctioning System:


The parking and traffic congestion problem at GMU has been of concern for several years.  Transportation officials of the university are interested in innovative solutions to help mitigate this problem.  You are being asked to design an improved university parking and campus transportation information system. You should consider the design alternatives created in last years design class. You must evaluate the current problem, peak traffic loads, parking concentrations and student traffic patterns.  You must evaluate the number and location of the current parking facilities, the nature of the parking facilities, the current space allocation policies, future growth trends, revenue neutral solutions, etc. and design a computer (web based) student, faculty and staff annual auctioning system to optimally allocate parking space at GMU main campus.  The preliminary proposal must be presented to university officials in early December for potential funding of a prototype system evaluation in the spring.  Simulation and testing/evaluation will be emphasized in the spring semester. Prof. Karla Hoffman is a potential resources for this design effort.



1.  GMU Senior Design Final Report, Spring 2002.


C.     Analyze and Design an Air Transportation Network of 4 dimensional tubes between the Major Population Centers of the US:


It has been observed that the majority of commercial air flights in the US effectively define a well-structured network.  This network could be considered equivalent to the US Interstate highway system.  The major nodes of this network consist of roughly 60 cities.   An MIT proposal to NASA HQ is to structure the airspace into four-dimensional tubes connecting the major cities of the US. Using the Flight Explorer real time data available in the Transportation Lab and official FAA data bases, select this network and simulate the flows.  Assume 2 mile aircraft separation enroute and 90 second separation upon arrival.  This system would work synergistically with the slot auctioning system designed in Project A.  Discuss how this system would respond to weather perturbations that would require moving these non-intersecting tubes in space and time to avoid aircraft collisions.



1.      Donohue, G. The U.S. Air transportation System: A Bold Vision for Change, August 2002.

2.      Histon, J.M., R.J. Hansman, G. Aigoin, D. Dalahaye and S. Puechmorel, “Introducing Structureal Considerations into Complexity Metrics”, Air Traffic Control Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2002.



D.    Design a new US Air Traffic Control sectorization System based upon Wireless Telecommunication System Requirements: 


With the rapid growth of business travel using general aviation aircraft, the number of low occupancy vehicles in the air may overwhelm the current air traffic control system.  It ahs been proposed that new technology may allow these aircraft to self-separate.  These aircraft do not fly structured routes that are repeatable on a daily basis and thus cannot be accommodated in the 4 D tubes addressed in Design C.  This random direction system is limited by the automatic conflict detection and avoidance system on each aircraft.  It is proposed that a 6,000 foot corridor be established between 13,000 and 19,000 feet for these aircraft.  Design the digital communication system cell configuration for all GA air traffic in the US airspace.  Assume that the communication system will be a TDMA VDL-4 data link design.



1.      Donohue, G. The U.S. Air transportation System: A Bold Vision for Change, August 2002.

2.      Yousefi, A., K. M. Qureshi and G.L. Donohue, “Estimating Air Traffic Controller Workload as a Function of Airspace Congestion and Analyzing the Impact of Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) on Controller Workload”, paper submitted to the National Research Council Transportation Research Board for presentation Jan. 2003.

Program Schedule:


Aug. 26/27.  Introductory Lectures on Decision Theory and Practical tools for use in the design of your two-semester project. ( Prof. Loerch, guest lecturer )


September 4.  Introduction to the design problems and time-sheet system.  Background discussions and data exchange. Four teams will be formed based upon personal interest and required team balance.  Each team will select a Team Leader who has the best qualifications for leading the team to a successful project completion.  The team should also have sub teams consisting of a: 1) process and cost analysis team and 2) an analysis/ simulation team 3) Graphics, web page design/implementation, and presentation team.  Teams should insure that they have members who have completed Systems Engineering Management, Simulation and Decision Theory.  It is anticipated that team leadership duties may rotate throughout the 9-month period of the project (based upon demonstrated performance and workload considerations).


Each member of the class will give a substantial presentation at some point in the project to faculty or outside project sponsors. Each student will be graded upon his/her presentation ability.  The Project Proposal and the final Project Report will be graded for writing style and completeness.  The total project grade will represent a sizable portion of each student’s final grade.  In addition, each student will be ranked by each team member for total contribution to the program outcome. Each team member should have completed SYST 371 (Systems Engineering Management).  Each team should have students who have completed SYST 473 (Decision and Risk Analysis) and OR 335 (Discrete Systems Simulation Modeling).  Submit ranked design problem preference at the end of class.


September 9.  Finalize Team composition and Design Projects.

September 11/16. Lectures on Program Management, House of Quality Requirements Analysis and Earned Value Management/ Program Cost Estimation and Tracking.

September 18. Present Team delegation of responsibility and Initial Requirements Analysis.

September 30.  Each Team present results of brainstorming and Initial House of Quality Requirements Matrix and Initial EVM cost schedule for the Fall Semester.

October 2. Present Initial Level 3 Work Breakdown Structure, Project Time Schedule and Pert Chart. 

October 7. Initial Cost Estimate. Revised Requirement Document using Decision Support and Risk Analysis software.

October 9.  Mid Term Exam

October 16.  Pass Back Exam and Discussion

October 21. Team A Presentation

October 23. Team B Presentation

October 28. Team C Presentation

Nov. 4. Team D Presentation

Nov. 6. Present Draft Formal Proposal for Investment Decision I Review TEAMs A & B

Nov. 11. Present Draft Formal Proposal for Investment Decision I Review TEAMs C&D

Nov. 13. Team A Presentation

Nov. 18. Team B Presentation

Nov. 20. Team C Presentation

Nov. 25 . Team D Presentation

Dec 2.  Final Proposals submitted for Faculty evaluation

Dec 4.  Final Proposal Presentations to Faculty and Project Sponsors

Dec 16. Present first semester team self evaluation and Plan for second semester.  Revised Project Milestones


Grading:  Each student’s final grade will be determined as follows

33% Project Proposal and Final Project report (written)

33% Team Project productivity self evaluation

20% Faculty evaluation

14% Individual presentations