Engineering Education: A Focus on Systems

Edward A. Lee

In "Advances in Control, Communication Networks, and Transportation Systems: In Honor of Pravin Varaiya," E.H. Abed (Ed.), Systems and Control: Foundations and Applications Series, Birkhauser, Boston, 2005.

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Engineers have a major advantage over scientists. For the most part, the systems we analyze are of our own devising. It has not always been so. Not long ago, the principle objective of engineering was to coax physical materials to do our bidding by leveraging their intrinsic physical properties. The discipline was of "applied science." Today, a great deal of engineering is about coaxing abstractions that we have invented. The abstractions provided by microprocessors, programming languages, operating systems, and computer networks are only loosely linked to the underlying physics of electronics.