By René King
From the 19th to 20th November, PPI team members René King and Paul Davies gathered at the INCOSE UK Annual Systems Engineering Conference (ASEC) for the prestigious INCOSE UK annual event. This conference was particularly special as it was a celebration of the ASEC’s Silver Jubilee and the Chapter’s 10th ASEC! The event which was hosted at the wonderful Royal Armouries Museum in London, provided much fodder for discussion especially at the pre-dinner reception on the first night.
The Conference’s theme was, ‘Celebrating the Future of Systems Engineering’. Sub-themes devised to explore this topic included: ‘Inspiring the Next Generation’, ‘Advancing the Practices’, and ‘Pushing the Boundaries’. These themes were ardently addressed in a set of presentations, workshops, a panel and interest group meetings ranging from topics including SE in education, the Viable Systems Model, Artificial Intelligence, Requirements Management, SysML and more!
Paul Davies presented on the topic of Interface Management, in part promoting his new book, “Don’t Panic! The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Managing Interfaces”, which led to a riveting question-and-answer session. In his Energy Systems Catapult role, Michael Gainford hosted an Energy Systems Working Group session where a systems thinking approach to addressing an environmental issue was demonstrated. This stimulated thought provoking discussions regarding what impact our individual choices have on the environment. The jury is in – Our consumerist tendencies are slowly (or not so slowly) destroying our planet. The Working Group inquires: ‘What are you doing about it?’
Some of the highlights of the conference included key note presentations and a panel session. The key note presentation on Day 1 was a spectacular presentation by Alan Harding (INCOSE Immediate Past President), Gary Roedler (INCOSE President) and Kerry Lunney (INCOSE President Elect) in which they jointly presented on the past, present and future of systems engineering, respectively. This intriguing presentation delighted delegates as the trio painted a very encouraging picture on the role SE played in shaping our modern world. The presentation highlighted a path to bolstering digital engineering in order to address Grand Challenges of present and future generations.
On Day 2, Professor Emma Sparks (named one of the top women in engineering in 2018) presented a stimulating presentation on the qualities that make a good systems engineer. Prof. Sparks addressed the multitude of factors that contribute to the learning process and emphasized the need for hands-on learning rather than solely text-based learning to produce adept systems engineers. Prof. Sparks also illustrated the relevance of ‘soft’ skills in developing value-adding engineers within an organization.
The panel presentation about Artificial Intelligence was a fascinating synopsis of what our current understanding and capabilities are regarding AI – the questions of ‘what is Artificial Intelligence’, ‘how can AI serve us in addressing societal and technological challenges?’ and ‘should we be scared of AI?’ were all explored. Amazon’s Alexa, the virtual assistant developed by Amazon, was the ‘special guest’ on the panel offering intelligent responses that both demonstrated her intellectual capabilities (and sometimes, limitations) and thoroughly entertained the audience.
In acknowledging the wide variety of topics addressed and the array of minor elements included to make for an interesting and memorable conference, it was most exciting to experience the high level of diversity in the conference participation. Both the winner and runner up for Best Paper were awarded to women. In addition, half of the keynote speakers and 3 out of the 4 panellists were female (if you included Alexa!). This is well aligned with INCOSE’s ambition to see increased diversity in every facet of systems engineering and an absolute pleasure to witness.
With an array of work products publicized including books, a competency framework and tremendous efforts to get greater recognition of SE as part of the UK’s professional engineering status, INCOSE UK is definitely one of the most active and determined Chapters under the INCOSE umbrella. I am sure that all delegates will agree that lively conference hosts, Kirsty Akroyd-Wallis (President of INCOSE UK) and Jon Holt (Technical Director of INCOSE UK) did a terrific job at captivating and educating the audience. One thing became clear during the conference: the INCOSE UK Chapter seems to be having fun while doing what it loves best – that is, all things systems engineering.
Thank you to all who stopped by at the PPI/CTI booth and engaged with us in discussion about systems engineering in general and to all who asked questions about our training courses and the process of becoming INCOSE SEP certified. It is very encouraging to see such esteemed engineers determined to improve their SE knowledge and skills throughout their career – that is a key ingredient to approaching the Future of Systems Engineering with the upper hand. We hope to see you all sometime soon and very much look forward to returning to the ASEC in future.
Well done to INCOSE UK on hosting a high caliber event!
Photo Highlights (Curtesy of Alan Harding)
Pictured: Paul Davies, René King and Michael Gainford.
Pictured: Kerry Lunney during key note address.
Pictured: Panel session on Artifical Intelligence.
Kirsty Akroyd-Wallis – INCOSE UK President.