19 May 2017
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – Loughborough Quantum Systems Engineering Summer School
The Quantum Systems Engineering Research Group (QSERG) was pleased to host a cohort of over 30 of the Dstl quantum technologies PhD students for a week long Summer School. We aimed to develop an appropriate systems engineering toolbox and mind-set that would provide skills enabling a more rapid development of quantum technologies than afforded by usual scientific methods.
The workshop provided a selection of key topics. Here, Mark Everitt Introduced the group to Systems Engineering from a quantum physics perspective and later in the week elaborated on the specific physical challenges associated with developing a Quantum Systems Engineering discipline. Methods for building Reliable systems was a theme developed by Vincent Dwyer including sessions on Functional Failure Mode and Effects Analysis and Quality Function Deployment. A high level systems view was provided by Michael Henshaw who expanded on the Systems Engineering discipline; what it is and why it is used, introducing the proper use of requirements and concept generation. Looking ahead to the production of a successful technology Laura Justham introduced real manufacturing challenges and case studies. Further context was provided by experienced practitioners including Jack Lemon (who recently joined the QSERG as a visiting professor), Neil Lindsay (Dstl and a long-standing Loughborough visiting professor) and, Gillian Marshal (QinetiQ).
In addition to formal presentations and small group-work, skills were developed through a Systems Engineering Challenge Project: To present a complex technical product using Systems Engineering artefacts, highlighting critical design features and opportunities for novel solutions. QinetiQ’s Gillian Marshal, who feedback on behalf of the judges, was so impressed with the winning design for an environmental isolation system for quantum technologies that she said she would definitely buy such a product if it existed.
Student feedback indicates the event was a huge success with feedback including: really fun, definitely would like another one; very well balanced of work/off time/talks; very useful for an interaction and scope not available from the usual academic routes; realising how much I know that would be useful to industry; It was good to have a project to apply systems engineering to because that let me see that it actually worked; the tools I learnt in the school will definitely be useful in the future; It has reinforced that you need a global picture.
The Summer School was considered by the students particularly useful for: [developing] big picture thinking [and a] systematic approach to problem-solving; starting from problem to solution and not the other way around; providing structure for development of the product; [understanding] expectations in industry; team working; being given new tools to use organising my research; [providing] a framework for taking the work out of the lab and into the real-world; Good for keeping records; noticed in group discussions it clarifies boundaries; stops repetition of mistakes; manages risk.
It was very pleasing to learn from one student that the summer school “did not meet my expectations – [it] was much better”. Also of importance is that a number noted that “It'd be useful to learn about Systems engineering earlier in my PhD”. Our emerging view is that all scientists could benefit from learning some systems engineering and we are currently seeking to establish just how much is enough. If you are interested in working with us on developing systems engineering capability in your research please do contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org).