A New Kind of Language for Complex Engineering Systems

Benjamin Hsuehyung Koo
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ed Crawley
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Designing complex engineering systems such as spacecraft and automobiles presents tremendous technical and managerial challenges. These challenges mostly emerge from the overwhelming interactions between physical subsystems and information flow between humans and machines. To orchestrate the interactive complexity of large-scale engineering systems, the designers must cope with a large number of variables and a set of complex rules that govern the interactions among them.

These complications make it extremely difficult to construct models within a reasonable amount of time even if component-level modeling knowledge is available. This talk illustrates an NKS-inspired modeling approach to reduce the amount of modeling effort for complex systems. Specifically, our research indicates that NKS approaches can be applied to represent both simple and complex subsystems in a holistic manner. Instead of using binary variables connected in a one-dimensional topology, we found that complex engineering systems can be modeled as a network of qualitative and quantitative variables with a simple rule-based NKS-inspired engine, to perform informative calculation for its designers.

To illustrate the practical value of this NKS-inspired system modeling tool, we applied this tool to study    NASA’s  Apollo program, and presented our NKS-inspired approach to the key architects and engineers of the Apollo program. The original architects and engineers of the Apollo program responded with highly positive feedback and articulated a series of potential applications of this approach to their project.

In our presentation, we will briefly present the architecture of our calculation engine, modeling tool, and explain the scalability and utility of NKS in designing complex engineering systems.

Created by Mathematica  (April 20, 2004)

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