paul-collopyThe Systems Science program at the National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Alabama in Huntsville a one year research grant of $119,462 (effective 9/1/14) to study “Control versus Prediction in Systems Engineering.” The project’s principal investigator, Prof. Paul Collopy, chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering and Engineering Management department, says, “Huntsville is one of the world centers for systems engineering, so it is not surprising that UAH is one of the leading universities in systems engineering research. We are already conducting NASA’s largest systems engineering research program, under the direction of Prof. Phil Farrington, and this is our second NSF grant for systems engineering research. The mix of NASA funding and NSF funding really strengthens our research, because NASA has very complex systems engineering applications right here at Marshall Space Flight Center, but we can use National Science Foundation funding to investigate very fundamental questions that may be further from direct application.” Almost all of the new grant will be used to support graduate students at UAH who assist in research.

To date, a major part of systems engineering management of the development of aircraft, spacecraft and other large complex engineered systems has been based on predicting the outcome of the development project: how much time it will take, how much the development will cost, how much the eventual product will cost to manufacture, how much it will weigh, and so on. All these are almost always underestimated, usually by quite a lot. Despite decades of research on improving such predictions, no progress has been made. The current research is exploring the possibility that there might be a more successful approach to managing these systems that does not rely on prediction, but instead focuses on controlling cost, weight, schedule and performance. This is a short high-risk exploratory research project to establish the feasibility of a control-based management strategy utilizing techniques from modern control theory and dynamic programming.

Dr. Paul Collopy was appointed Professor and Chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering and Engineering Management Department at UAH in 2013. He received all his degrees from Stanford University (PhD in Engineering Economic Systems). Dr. Collopy may be contacted via email at