ESD.00 | Spring 2011 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Engineering Systems


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 2.5 hours / session


This video was provided by ESD.00 Faculty and is not covered under our Creative Commons license.

Take on one of the biggest, messiest, most complex problems out there in energy, sustainability, health care delivery, transportation, water availability, or the digital divide. You bring your desire to work on significant problems. We’ll bring tools and concepts for evaluating and addressing these critical contemporary issues.

  • A small team: Groups of three or four students and one Engineering Systems Division (ESD) professor/researcher with expertise in the field.
  • A shared experience: In addition to project work, the class will gather together for 2 hours a week, and focus on engineering systems concepts to be utilized in the project. Groups will share and learn from each other’s experiences.
  • Tackle real-world problems with cutting-edge tools: The class combines the introduction of fundamental engineering systems concepts and methods with real-world projects related to critical contemporary issues. Will you solve these problems in this class? Of course not. But you will make some solid first steps along the path to solution and gain an understanding of how to approach really complex problems. You’ll also gain familiarity with the powerful and interdisciplinary tools available to a systems thinker.
  • Make people’s lives better: Engineers work to make people’s lives better in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Learning to deal effectively with this complexity requires something new and different. Our goal is to offer an innovative curriculum that prepares future engineers to have a broad systems view, as well as deep, technical skills. ESD.00 is the initial offering in this new curriculum, designed to lead the transformation of undergraduate education here at MIT as well as influence engineering education worldwide.

Course Description

Students work on projects to address large, complex and seemingly intractable real-world problems, such as energy supply, environmental issues, health care delivery, and critical infrastructure (e.g., telecommunications, water supply, and transportation). This course introduces interdisciplinary approaches - rooted in engineering, management, and the social sciences - to considering these critical contemporary issues. Small, faculty-led teams select an engineering systems term project to illustrate several of these approaches.

This course will have active in-class discussions, debate, and application of some of the introduced concepts to critical, contemporary real-world issues. The reading and texts are intended as a supplement (not a substitute) to the lectures and discussions.


Homework 40%
Project mini-assignments (3 total) 15%
Project written report and presentation 35%
Class participation 10%

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets with Solutions
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples