The purpose of this course is to prepare students to exercise leadership in engineering system design by focusing on the top-level conceptual design of a system. A system architecture can be viewed as a collection of the most important design decisions defining the system. Detailed design operates within the boundaries set by this system architecture. Many of the system’s ultimate qualities, including security, reliability, and resilience, are determined by the system architecture and can be modified later only at great cost. It is important therefore to evaluate these qualities at the architecture level and consider numerous alternatives. This course moves through four phases of architectural thinking, namely systems thinking, systems analysis, systems creation, and tradespace exploration. Theoretical components will be complemented by case studies, practical applications, and software implementations. Students will also conduct a term-long team design project.

Learning Objectives

On completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Articulate a system design including its stakeholders, mission, measures of effectiveness, functional and structural architecture, critical interfaces, behavioral logic, and quality constraints (requirements).
  • Evaluate a system architecture using multiple measures of quality.
  • Construct and explore a design space of alternatives with multiple criteria. Use stakeholder feedback and optimization to refine the set of candidate designs.

Measurable Outcomes

  • Describe a simple engineering system with respect to the stakeholders, mission, measures of effectiveness, functional architecture, structural architecture, interface specification, state diagram and activity diagram representations of behavior, and testable requirements.
  • Use systems engineering software packages implementing SysML to represent and reason with different aspects of a system architecture.
  • Assess the performance of an architecture through metrics of cost, resilience, robustness and reliability and through qualities of flexibility, commonality and modularity.
  • Create an architectural design by analyzing the function and form of a system and by applying creativity to generate concepts that map function to form.
  • Explore design tradespaces, eliminating dominated solutions, and using stakeholder feedback and optimization to refine the set of candidate designs and to recommend the best design.
  • Distinguish a design decision as distinct from an architectural decision and to identify whether two different systems share a common architecture.
  • Identify measurable system requirements and devise a test plan.


12 Credits

Prerequisites: 40.001 Probability (or 30.003/50.034 Introduction to Probability and Statistics); 40.002 Optimisation (for ESD students) or 10.007 Modelling The Systems World (for non-ESD students)

Sample Content

Capella is open-use software for System Architecture design. Students in Engineering Systems Architecture use Capella to document their project designs using a model-based system architecture approach. We have created a tutorial for Capella that explains, step-by-step, the development of a system architecture for a toy catapult. The tutorial takes between 4-6 hours to complete and you are welcome to follow it on your own:

Introduction to Arcadia with Capella