16.400 | Fall 2011 | Undergraduate

Human Factors Engineering


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Overview

This course is designed to provide both undergraduate and graduate students with a fundamental understanding of human factors that must be taken into account in the design and engineering of complex aviation and space systems. The primary focus is the derivation of human engineering design criteria from sensory, motor, and cognitive sources to include principles of displays, controls and ergonomics, manual control, the nature of human error, basic experimental design, and human-computer interaction in supervisory control settings. Undergraduate students will demonstrate proficiency through aviation accident case presentations, quizzes, homework assignments, and hands-on projects. Graduate students will complete all the undergraduate assignments; however, they are expected to complete a research-oriented project with a final written report and an oral presentation.

Learning Objectives

Given a complex aviation or space system which requires human interaction, students will be proficient in identifying sensory, motor, and cognitive concerns for expected operational envelopes, developing hypotheses for design recommendations to improve human interaction in these complex systems, generating basic experimental plans which lead to testing those hypotheses through statistical models, and effectively communicating these results through interpretation and presentation of results.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the various aspects of human sensory, motor, and cognitive attributes that influence human performance in the operation of aviation and space systems.
  2. Identify and analyze sources of human and organizational error in aviation and space accidents.
  3. Formulate principled hypotheses for human-system design improvement.
  4. Develop comparative experimental designs based on hypotheses.
  5. Test hypotheses in human settings and assess the validity of proposed designs on human workload, situation awareness, and mission performance.
  6. Communicate interpretation of statistical analysis and design results, both written and orally.

Required Course Texts

Proctor, R. W., and T. Van Zandt. Human Factors in Simple and Complex Systems. 2nd ed. CRC Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780805841190. [Preview with Google Books]

Dismukes, R. K., B. A. Berman, and L. D. Loukopoulous. The Limits of Expertise: Rethinking Pilot Error and the Causes of Airline Accidents. Ashgate Publishing, 2007. ISBN: 9780754649656. [Preview with Google Books]

Bluman, A. G. Elementary Statistics: A Step-by-Step Approach. 5th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2004. ISBN: 9780072549072.


Grading differs for undergraduate and graduate students in the course.

Quiz 1 30% 25%
Quiz 2 30% 25%
Projects 25% 15%
Problem sets 10% 5%
Daily quizzes 5% 5%
Final project n/a 25% (Oral: 10%; Written: 15%)

Academic Honesty Policy

It is expected that within this course, the highest standards of academic integrity will be maintained, in keeping with MIT’s stated policy: “Fundamental to the principle of independent learning and professional growth is the requirement of honesty and integrity in conduct of one’s academic and nonacademic life…. Cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, and other forms of academic dishonesty are considered serious offenses for which disciplinary penalties can be imposed.” Specifically in this class, collaboration is allowed for the projects but quizzes and p-sets are individual efforts. All referenced work should be appropriately cited (APA format), to include websites, as well as figures and graphs in presentations. If there are any questions whatsoever, feel free to contact the course instructors about any possible gray areas.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2011
Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets
Lecture Notes