College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

New program aims to combine industrial engineering with Navy engineering analytics

A graphic featuring headshots for the six faculty involved in the Naval Engineering Analytics Program, or NEAP.

Faculty in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) are developing a new program that will provide students with the knowledge and skills to pursue careers in the U.S. Navy and adjacent paths.

A group of IMSE researchers recently received a $520,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research’s STEM Education and Workforce Program to establish the Navy Engineering Analytics Program (NEAP), which they intend to eventually become a minor program administered through the IMSE department. NEAP is a unique education and training program that exposes talented undergraduate students at Iowa State University to technical coursework applicable to the Navy. The program will also provide opportunities for the students to work directly with professionals who are solving challenging Navy problems.

“NEAP will help students develop analytical skills with naval applications and relevance by offering courses in crisis decision making and mitigation, modeling simulation and forecasting, design and evaluation in human-computer interaction, and a capstone course with projects relevant to the Department of Defense,” said Cameron MacKenzie, an assistant professor in IMSE who is also serving as the project’s principal investigator (PI).

Courses through this program will teach analytic skills applicable to a wide range of areas while incorporating Navy applications, problems and case studies. The program aims to prepare students for internships with Navy-related entities such as the Office of Naval Research, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval Air Systems Command as well as with Department of Defense (DoD)-related companies such as Collins Aerospace, Boeing Defense Systems and Northrup Grumman.

The program will build upon the IMSE foundation in areas like operations research, human factors and systems engineering. Students will develop skills in decision making, risk mitigation, designing and evaluating human-computer interaction (HCI) systems, modeling and forecasting with uncertainty and data science.

“These skills are applicable to many different industries but the program will focus on how to apply these skills specifically to tackle Navy and defense problems,” MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie will be supported by a team of co-PIs, all of whom are on the IMSE faculty, who will each teach different courses and modules. Michael Helwig and Brendan Devine both have military experience and understand how this knowledge is applied in real-world situations. Michael Dorneich is an expert in HCI and teaches a course on designing and evaluating HCI systems. Qing Li and Sarah Ryan are experts in mathematical models, statistics, and dealing with uncertainty in data. MacKenzie will focus on decision analysis and risk management.

“My goal is to give students exposure to analysis methods, specialized organizations, and complex systems that they may not otherwise have access to with traditional internships. This is a world-class networking opportunity as well as a multi-faceted introduction to the intersection of government, military, academia and corporate players,” Devine said.

Devine, who served in the U.S. Air Force, said that having DoD experience will be beneficial when teaching the students about the practical application of the skills and knowledge they develop through the program.

“Many DoD employers put new hires in test and evaluation positions for a first assignment,” said Devine. “It leverages the enthusiasm of a younger, more junior engineer while exposing them to the functionalities of the system they will be working on. It’s truly a choice job; you get to play with a new system before anyone else and therefore you will be the default subject matter expert. Then, a lot of attention and opportunities will come your way.”

NEAP is open to any undergraduate student at ISU, and particular emphasis will be placed on recruiting female undergraduate students and veterans. The program is mainly aimed at engineering and business students, and program organizers hope that scholarships will eventually be available for select students. They plan to offer the first course for the program in Fall 2022. Devine thinks that this program can fill a void that is currently vacant.

“I believe there’s a real need for this type of course in engineering,” said Devine. “Not all engineering roles in society revolve around production, design, or mathematical models.  Some are more of an operational role that doesn’t tie to a specific discipline, but engineers can play a critical role in the planning and execution of large-scale policy.”