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The Undergraduate Calendar

Faculty of Engineering

Bachelor of Applied Science and Bachelor of Software Engineering Specific Degree Requirements

Systems Design Engineering
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Effective solutions to problems involving both society and technology must be based on a broad systems point-of-view. Not only must the overall technical factors of these problems be carefully considered, but the economic, social, human, and political parameters must be given equally careful attention. When large scale engineering problems are under study, few people can be knowledgeable of the complete span of factors and parameters that must be considered. For these cases, solutions must be arrived at by interdisciplinary teams where each member contributes their own special expertise. In order to work effectively on this team, each member needs to be aware of the fundamental systems and design aspects of the problem. The rapid growth and complexity of industry have, indeed, created unusual problems; however, underlying the complexities of modern civilization and technology are similarities that make it possible to approach problems in many diverse fields with essentially the same concepts, theories and techniques. Systems theory has emerged as a scientific discipline for quantitative analysis, design, and control of large classes of problems in engineering and social sciences.

The undergraduate program in Systems Design Engineering at Waterloo is a study of those basic skills required for system analysis, simulation, optimization, and design. Numerous examples may be cited where these systems design fundamentals may be applied: transportation, engineering design, computer applications, water resources engineering, production, planning and scheduling, environmental pollution, education. Of course the importance of specialized expertise in these areas should not be minimized, but these skills usually work most effectively toward problem solutions when operating within an overall systems context.

The Engineering Profession

Systems Design Engineering is a unique engineering discipline which is formally accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). With four years of work experience beyond graduation (Bachelor of Applied Science - BASc), the Systems Design Engineer may apply for registration as a professional engineer.

Each province within Canada has its own Professional Engineering Association. The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) is a national organization that has representation from all of the Provincial Professional Engineering Associations. The CEAB determines what types of courses must be contained in a university engineering program in order for the program to meet the standards of Canadian engineering. The Systems Design Engineering program satisfies the strict standards of the CEAB and is therefore acknowledged as a fully qualified Engineering Program. In fact, the Department of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo is the only department of its kind in all of Canada and one of few in North America.

The Systems Design Engineering program is specifically oriented towards developing graduates who can solve problems lying at the interface of technology and the human environment. Therefore, if you are technically oriented and also have a strong parallel interest in social and human problems, Systems Design Engineering may be the right program for you.

The Department of Systems Design Engineering also offers programs leading to Master of Engineering (MEng), Master of Applied Science (MASc), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees and in the past many Systems Design Engineering students have gone on to complete graduate degrees. The faculty members of the Department are involved in a wide spectrum of research activities such as conflict analysis, pattern recognition, ergonomics, computer engineering, and mechatronics. Students who also wish to do research in one of these areas may start at the undergraduate level by entering the Accelerated Master's Program in Engineering at the end of their 3B academic term. In this way they will be able to complete a Master's degree within one year after receiving their Bachelor's degree.

The Systems Design Engineering program is quite challenging. It is not easy to acquire the tools for resolving the problems of complex systems. Moreover, these tools are becoming more and more sophisticated. On average, students in Systems Design Engineering are expected to work at least 50 hours per week as they increase awareness of the theories of human communication and electro-mechanical systems, make progress in the areas of Systems Theory, Human Systems Engineering, and Socio-Economic Systems, and absorb the implications of the tremendous growth of electronic computing systems.

Further information is available on the Systems Design Engineering website.

Employment Opportunities

Graduates of Systems Design Engineering will find employment opportunities in a number of diverse fields. To some extent, the technical elective area chosen by the student in the third and fourth year determines more specifically what the student does upon graduation. Some particular types of jobs which systems design engineers may be involved with include:

  • analysis and optimization of engineering systems
  • simulation and advanced computer applications
  • process control and instrumentation
  • operations research
  • development of alternative energy sources
  • design of human-machine interfaces
  • control systems design
  • socio-economic systems design
  • data analysis and pattern recognition
  • occupational health and safety
  • product design, planning and management
  • ergonomics
  • resources management
  • research and development

These types of professional activities may fall within the domain of one or more engineering disciplines such as chemical, civil (e.g., structural, water resource and transportation systems), electrical (e.g., circuit design and microprocessor applications), mechanical (e.g., energy conversion and design of machines), environmental (e.g., environmental impact assessment and planning), industrial and human engineering.

Undergraduate Curriculum in Systems Design Engineering

The Undergraduate program in Systems Design Engineering encompasses the study of the basic skills required for systems analysis, simulation, optimization, and design. In particular the first three years of the program are intended to provide each student with a broad background and capability in the areas of:

  • engineering design
  • applied mathematics
  • engineering sciences and systems theory
  • socio-economic systems
  • human systems engineering
  • computer systems and applications

Throughout these three years the student's ability to grasp real engineering problems is enhanced by courses in Systems Design methodology followed by a series of challenging problem-solving experiences in the Systems Design Workshops. It is here that a focus is given to the whole curriculum and the student learns to apply the lecture material, to develop skills in solving problems that cut across the traditional disciplines, and to develop design, planning, and organizational abilities.

The final year of the program is comprised mostly of elective courses, allowing the student to emphasize one or more areas of study. This provides the required background for a future year of advanced study to the MASc degree, or for a rewarding career in industry or government with the Bachelor's degree (BASc).

Systems Design Engineering Undergraduate Core and Suggested Elective Curriculum (Listed by Terms)

The Systems Design undergraduate program consists of two course groupings:

  1. Compulsory core courses within the program that prepare the student for practice in engineering and comprise 70% to 80% of the course load.
  2. Elective courses that comprise 20 to 30 percent of the course load.

A minimum of four complementary studies elective courses (CSEs) must be completed, in addition to the two complementary courses in the core program (SYDE 261 and SYDE 262), in subjects that complement the engineering curriculum (See the Complementary Studies Electives section below). A minimum of six technical elective courses must be completed in a particular technical discipline or disciplines appropriate to a student’s interests. (See the Technical Elective Packages section below). Your course selections must meet CEAB requirements, including a minimum number of instruction hours in the various CEAB categories.

What follows is the current core course curriculum for Systems Design students entering 1A fall 2011 and beyond, with the course weight shown in square brackets [ ] next to each course.  For those students who began the program in 2010 or earlier, please consult the 2010-2011 Calendar. Students should contact the Systems Design Undergraduate Office for more details on the transition. 

1A (Fall)

SYDE 101 [0.25] Introduction to Systems Design Engineering
SYDE 101L [0.25] Graphics Laboratory
SYDE 111 [0.50] Fundamental Engineering Math 1
SYDE 113 [0.25] Matrices and Linear Systems
SYDE 121 [0.50] Digital Computation
SYDE 161 [0.50] Introduction to Design
SYDE 181 [0.50] Physics 1 (Statics)

1B (Spring)

SYDE 102 Seminar
SYDE 112 [0.50] Fundamental Engineering Math 2
SYDE 114 [0.25] Numerical and Applied Calculus
SYDE 162 [0.50] Human Factors in Design 
SYDE 182 [0.50] Physics 2 (Dynamics)
SYDE 192 [0.50] Digital Systems
SYDE 192L [0.25] Digital Systems Laboratory
One Complementary Studies Elective

2A (Winter)

SYDE 201 Seminar
SYDE 211 [0.50] Advanced Engineering Math 1
SYDE 223 [0.50] Data Structures and Algorithms
SYDE 261 [0.50] Design, Systems, and Society 
SYDE 283 [0.50] Physics 3 (Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics)
SYDE 285 [0.50] Materials Chemistry

2B (Fall)

SYDE 202 Seminar
SYDE 212 [0.50] Probability and Statistics
SYDE 252 [0.50] Linear Systems and Signals
SYDE 262 [0.50] Engineering Economics of Design 
SYDE 286 [0.50] Mechanics of Deformable Solids
SYDE 292 [0.50] Circuits, Instrumentation, and Measurements
SYDE 292L [0.25] Circuits, Instrumentation, and Measurements Laboratory
One Complementary Studies Elective
WKRPT 200 [0.13] Work-term Report

3A (Spring)

SYDE 301 Seminar
SYDE 311 [0.50] Advanced Engineering Math 2
SYDE 351 [0.50] Systems Models 1
SYDE 361 [0.50] Engineering Design
SYDE 381 [0.50] Thermodynamics
SYDE 383 [0.50] Fluid Mechanics
WKRPT 300 [0.13] Work-term Report

3B (Winter)

SYDE 302 Seminar
SYDE 312 [0.50] Applied Linear Algebra
SYDE 352 [0.50] Introduction to Control Systems
SYDE 352L [0.25] Control Systems Laboratory
SYDE 362 [.50] Systems Design Workshop 1
One Technical Elective
One Complementary Studies Elective

4A (Fall)

SYDE 401 Seminar
SYDE 411 [0.50] Optimization and Numerical Methods
SYDE 461 [0.50] Systems Design Workshop 2
Two Technical Electives 
One Technical or Complementary Studies Elective
WKRPT 400 [0.13] Work-term Report

4B (Winter)

SYDE 402 Seminar
SYDE 462 [0.50] Systems Design Workshop 3
Three Technical Electives
One Complementary Studies Elective

Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) Requirements

To determine the suitability of elective courses, students should complete the CEAB Planner located via the Systems Design Engineering website. In addition to meeting CEAB requirements, the student's course selections (as reported in their Planner) should be logical and defensible. Two CEAB Planners must be completed and submitted to the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, one planner for approval purposes in the student's 3A term, and one planner for graduation purposes at the end of the student's 4A term.

Students that have combinations of electives that result in a program that does not meet the CEAB criteria will not be permitted to graduate.

Complementary Studies Electives (CSEs)

The Complementary Studies requirement gives students some breadth of studies related to their role as educated professionals in society. In addition to the two courses in the core program, at least four elective courses must be chosen to satisfy the Complementary Studies requirements. Only courses noted in Lists A, B, C, and D are Faculty-approved complementary studies electives. Students may arrange the sequencing of the complementary studies elective courses to suit their program (and any course prerequisites).

Technical Studies Electives (TEs)

Each undergraduate student in Systems Design Engineering must complete at least six department approved technical electives to meet graduation requirements. Students may arrange the sequencing of the technical elective courses to suit their program (and any course prerequisites).

The Department of Systems Design Engineering offers a wide variety of technical elective courses in the third and fourth year. Students are encouraged to design their own elective programs to develop expertise in their particular interest area. Approved technical elective courses are available from Systems Design Engineering, from other Engineering departments, and from a wide list of technical courses in the Faculties of Science and Mathematics. Only courses from Engineering and Computer Science will contribute towards CEAB hours in the categories of "Engineering Science" and "Engineering Design."

Technical Elective Packages

The Department has identified four technical elective areas within its current offerings. Additional information regarding elective packages may be obtained from the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies. Students may choose a technical elective package from the four areas identified below to help them in their selection of technical electives. Choosing a specific elective package is not mandatory. Students do not receive any official notification on their transcript for completing an elective package. However, students may find it possible to arrange their electives in such a way as to complete the requirements for one or more Faculty of Engineering Approved Options. To do this, students with sufficiently high grades are encouraged, subject to approval from the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, to supplement their program with extra courses or courses taken online (see Centre for Extended Learning) or at another university.

Human Systems Engineering

The elective package in Human Systems Engineering offers students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills applicable to the design and analysis of systems that interact closely with humans. This package draws upon the disciplines of engineering, psychology, and physiology in order to provide students with basic understandings of the capabilities and limitations of humans within a system context. The Department offers a selection of courses in the areas of human factors/ergonomics, as well as, image processing and biomedical engineering. Application-oriented courses show how human systems methods can be applied in the design of interactive systems, in biomedical and clinical systems, and in the industrial workplace. In addition, students are encouraged to select other courses to complement and strengthen their fundamental knowledge in their chosen fields of study. These might include courses in statistics and experimental design, cognitive and developmental psychology, perception and pattern recognition, signal processing and kinesiology, or biomechanics, and occupational health and safety. The elective courses in this package are as follows:

3B (Winter)

SYDE 348 User Centred Design Methods
SYDE 384 Biological and Human Systems 
SYDE 544 Biomedical Measurement and Signal Processing

4A (Fall)

SYDE 543 Cognitive Ergonomics
SYDE 575 Image Processing

4B (Winter)

SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition
SYDE 384 Biological and Human Systems 
SYDE 542 Interface Design 
SYDE 544 Biomedical Measurement and Signal Processing

Intelligent Systems

The Intelligent Systems elective package provides a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of "Information Engineering," an emerging field that includes artificial intelligence, robotics, communication, "smart" machines, and human-computer symbiosis. The systems-oriented approach emphasizes pattern analysis, since the recognition and classification of patterns is central to both human and machine intelligence, as well as, finding application in many subfields of engineering. Courses in artificial perception (Image Processing) and artificial reasoning (Machine Intelligence) provide focused views in key application areas. The intelligent systems field provides one of the richest environments in which to acquire the familiarity with algorithms and data structures essential for disciplined software system design. Elective courses in this package are as follows:

3B (Winter)

SYDE 322 Software Design
SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition
SYDE 531 Design Optimization Under Probabilistic Uncertainty
SYDE 544 Biomedical Measurement and Signal Processing
SYDE 552 Computational Neuroscience

4A (Fall)

SYDE 543 Cognitive Ergonomics 
SYDE 575 Image Processing

4B (Winter)

SYDE 348 User Centred Design Methods
SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition 
SYDE 522 Machine Intelligence
SYDE 531 Design Optimization Under Probabilistic Uncertainty
SYDE 544 Biomedical Measurement and Signal Processing
SYDE 552 Computational Neuroscience
SYDE 556 Simulating Neurobiological Systems

Societal and Environmental Systems

When analysing, operating, or designing a complex engineering project, a variety of interactions between the natural and social environment must be considered. Within this package are courses which present methodologies and techniques for formally studying societal and environmental systems from a systems design engineering perspective. Specifically, the courses are to provide a strong background in probability and statistics, economics, mathematical modelling (deterministic and stochastic), and decision methodologies. Additional experience can be gained by doing related workshop projects in SYDE 362SYDE 461 and SYDE 462.

The courses in this elective package are:

3B (Winter)

SYDE 332 Societal and Environmental Systems
SYDE 334 Applied Statistics
SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition

4A (Fall)

SYDE 531 Design Optimization Under Probabilistic Uncertainty
SYDE 533 Conflict Resolution
SYDE 575 Image Processing

4B (Winter)

SYDE 332 Societal and Environmental Systems
SYDE 334 Applied Statistics
SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition
SYDE 522 Machine Intelligence

Students enrolled in the Accelerated Master's Program in Engineering may also take the courses:

SYDE 631 Time Series Modelling (Fall)
SYDE 632 Optimization (Winter)

Finally, students studying courses in this package often take courses from a related Faculty Option such as Water Resources, Environmental Engineering, Management Sciences, or Statistics Option.

Systems Modelling and Analysis

The Systems Modelling and Analysis elective package offers the student a selection of elective courses that encompasses the theory, methods, and mathematics of engineering systems design. In modern engineering practice, a design engineer is increasingly confronted with complex projects involving a variety of interdisciplinary sub-systems. The engineer must understand the operation of each sub-system, and be able to integrate them together to achieve an efficient and appropriate solution to the overall problem. The Systems Modelling and Analysis elective package introduces modelling and analysis of deterministic and probabilistic systems, as well as, discrete and distributed parameter systems. The courses comprising the elective package emphasize analytical, as well as, computer based methods; the use of currently available computer aided analysis and design packages are encouraged.

The elective package structure is such that the students enrolled in this elective package can take additional courses, possibly from other departments, in order to focus in any specific engineering discipline and at the same time obtain a strong systems modelling and design foundation. The elective courses for this package are as follows:

3B (Winter)

SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition
SYDE 384 Biological and Human Systems
SYDE 552 Computational Neuroscience

4A (Fall)

SYDE 553 Advanced Dynamics 
SYDE 575 Image Processing

4B (Winter)

SYDE 332 Societal and Environmental Systems 
SYDE 372 Introduction to Pattern Recognition
SYDE 384 Biological and Human Systems
SYDE 552 Computational Neuroscience
SYDE 556 Simulating Neurobiological Systems

Faculty of Engineering Approved Options

Following is a list of Faculty approved options.

Computer Engineering
Environmental Engineering
International Studies in Engineering
Management Sciences
Water Resources

Students who complete the requirements of these designated Options will receive a final academic transcript from the University with a statement that the Option has been successfully completed. Students should refer to the Options, Specializations and Electives for Engineering Students section of this Calendar for further information or contact the option co-ordinator.

Computer Option for Systems Design Engineering Students

The aim of this option is to augment the core curriculum from Systems Design Engineering with technical elective courses from the Systems Design Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science departments so that students can acquire a strong background in both hardware and software aspects of computer systems. The focus is on software development and computer architecture. 

In addition to the regular Systems Design core courses (SYDE 121, SYDE 223), the following two technical electives are mandatory for this option:

3B (Winter)

SYDE 322 Software Design

4B (Winter)

CS 450 Computer Architecture or ECE 327 Digital Hardware Systems

In addition four other technical electives must be taken from the following list.  Where a set of courses overlaps significantly, students may take only one or two courses from the set, as indicated:

CS 360 Introduction to the Theory of Computing
CS 442 Principles of Programming Languages

Software Design and Architectures:
At most one of CS 446 or ECE 452

Microprocessor Systems and Interfacing:
At most one of ECE 224 or MTE 325

Distributed Systems:
          At most one of CS 454 or ECE 454

Communications, Signal and Image Processing:
         At most two of ECE 358ECE 413, ECE 414, ECE 415SYDE 575

Database Systems:
          At most one of CS 348, CS 448, ECE 356

Machine Intelligence:
          At most one of CS 486, ECE 457A, SYDE 372SYDE 522

Computer Architecture:
          At most one of CS 450 or ECE 429

Real-Time and Operating Systems:
          At most one of CS 350, CS 450CS 452, ECE 254, MTE 241

Interface Design:
          At most one of CS 349 or SYDE 542


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