Introduction to the module

Aims, content, resources, assessment, and some advices

This introduction is devoted to the student who is interested in getting the first general information on Systems Theory, a core module  at the first year of the Management Engineering master course of the Università Cattaneo – LIUC.

If you are wondering whether to attend the classes and how to do it for getting the best from this module, including how and what to study, how your knowledge will be the assessed, etc, please read what follows.

Aims and objectives

In designing Engineering Management master courses in the Italian academic system the following specification was given:
[it is expected that] "the graduate student in Engineering Management has an adequate knowledge of the theoretical and scientific aspects of mathematics and other basic sciences and is able to use this knowledge to interpret and describe complex engineering problems, also when they require an interdisciplinary approach."
In implementing this specification, the module aims at:
- providing you with a critical insight to system thinking, i.e., the interpretation of reality in terms of systems, through the introduction of modelling techniques that exemplify oppositions such as closed-open, static-dynamic, local-global, deterministic-non-deterministic. .. with reference to the fundamental distinction between systems, models, and languages;
- offering you an opportunity to apply such modelling techniques, by learning how to build software models and to analyze their quality and performances.

Implementation

In coherence with the described aims, the module alternates classes:
- in the classroom, aimed at introducing the theoretical-conceptual content of the modelling techniques, and
- in the lab, in which students, individually or in small groups, are invited to apply these modelling techniques in the solution of always increasing complexity, by means of a software system specifically aimed at the development of simulators (STGraph).

Prerequisites and desirable attitude

In coherence with the described aims and content, you will get the best of this modules if you:
- care to get involved and participate actively, by interacting with the teacher and the other students;
- have an at least general knowledge of the fundamental contents of physics and math presented in your undergraduate course;
- have at least some basic skills in using a computer.

Interacting with the teacher

The purpose of the teacher is that all students with the mentioned prerequisites and attitude exploit the module in order to (i) grasp the basic contents of Systems Theory, intended as a tool to solve engineering problems, and to (ii) operatively learn to build models of dynamic systems in the form of software simulators.
You are then invited to freely interact with the teacher, during the classes and in meetings in the office hours, to be agreed via email, lmari@liuc.it.

Materials

Given the described aims and content, there is not a single reference book for the module. Some learning materials are available, specifically prepared by the teacher for this module, and freely downloadable from these pages.
STGraph, the software system used in the lab and suggested for building the simulator for the exam project, is also freely downloadable from these pages.
Some particularly interesting books to deepen your knowledge on the content of the module are, for example:
- R. W. Ashby, Introduction to Cybernetics, 1956 (freely downloadable from http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ASHBBOOK.html)
- L. von Bertalanffy, General System Theory, 1968
- G. M. Weinberg, An introduction to general systems thinking, 1975
- G. M. Weinberg, D. Weinberg, General principles of systems design, 1988

Assessment

You can choose how your knowledge will be assessed,
- either (mode 1) by developing the project of a software simulator of a dynamic system,
- or (mode 2) with a written exam, including questions related to both theoretical contents and their applications in model building.
In coherence with the described aims, mode 1 is warmly suggested, according to the following specifications:
- the project is better developed in a group of 2 or 3 students;
- the scope of the simulator shall be proposed to the teacher and approved by him;
- the project shall be presented to the teacher; the day of the presentation shall be proposed by you and agreed with the teacher;
- all content-related information is here.