The ERC/RMS approaches manufacturing from a systems perspective, which means that the system goals drive the research agenda at the project level. Typical engineering courses analyze known situations and consider given design goals. By contrast, RMS methodologies are based on design for a future change, when the change is not known. With RMS, the essence of decision-making involves a consideration of the future. This is the new broad theme that we would like to convey in RMS education.
The opportunity that RMS design brings in teaching a systems approach to engineering is an important driver to our education plan. Too often in engineering, the highly specialized and focused relationship between students and their individual faculty can produce graduates inexperienced in critical elements of a systems approach that are key to a graduate’s success. By contrast, the design of RMS provides an opportunity to educate students in these important areas. RMS, which is composed of many individual projects, all driven by a systems perspective, uses an integrative approach that combines the depth in a particular discipline with breadth through interaction with students and researchers from other disciplines. It provides an excellent example to demonstrate how a system-level perspective drives the individual research projects, and, in turn, how projects are integrated to form a system that is stronger, flexible, and enduring.
We apply this same systems approach to our education strategic plan, emphasizing an integration of culture, curriculum, and outreach, to add strength to our mission as we look toward the future. These RMS educational examples are being utilized and capitalized to produce graduates who successfully work with experts from diverse fields on cross-functional teams to solve complex problems. Our students graduate with unique skills to address the needs and goals of industry in which new projects are developed in anticipation of market demand.
The ERC impact is on four planes:
- Changing the culture within the ERC,
- Developing RMS-focused curriculum at the University of Michigan,
- Providing outreach activities to the external community and on a global scale,
- Diversity initiatives within the ERC.