SYST 798 / OR 680

Research Project / Applications Seminar

Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
Department of Systems Engineering and Operations Research
George Mason University
(703) 993-1644
Office hours: 3-4PM Wednesday, 5-6PM Thursday, or by appointment
Office location: Room 2214 Nguyen Engineering Building

Spring, 2012
University Hall 1204

Course Description

This course is designed to be the capstone course for the master’s degree program in Systems Engineering, the master's degree program in Operations Research, and the certificate in computational modeling.  Students complete a major applied group project. Work includes project proposal planning, completion, documentation, and presentation. For Operations Research students, the focus is on model development and implementation involved in the practice of operational modeling. For Systems Engineering students, the focus is on assessing stakeholder needs, developing a solution,  performing analysis to demonstrate that the solution meets stakeholder needs, and developing a business case for the solution. This course provides students with the opportunity to put all of the course material covered in the past into practice.  It also provides faculty with the opportunity to test the student’s ability to have assimilated the course material and certify that the student is ready to receive the Master of Science degree in Operations research or System Engineering.    

The class will be divided into project teams. Each team must tackle a complex, unstructured project and develop a solution that will be presented to stakeholders.  Students will apply the technical, management, and teamwork skills they have developed during their studies. A major component of the students' grade will be a presentation to be given at the end of the semester to SEOR Department faculty and outside stakeholders.

Course Information

Class Hours:             Th 7:20 – 10:00 pm, University Hall 1204
Pre-requisites:           21 graduate credits in Systems Engineering and/or Operations Research (SE students must have taken SYST 611)
Instructor:                 Kathryn Laskey
Office:                       Nguyen Engineering Building Room 2214
Office hours:             Thursday 3-5PM or by appointment


The main activity in this course is a group project. Each team of 3 or 4 students is responsible for choosing a project, developing a solution, producing  interim deliverables, writing a final report, and presenting results to faculty and external sponsors.  Each group must have an identified stakeholder for whom work is being performed. Stakeholders are expected to provide guidance and feedback on students' work. Projects may be related to a student's job, but must be separate from the student's assigned work responsibilities. Project groups will be assigned after the first class. Students are expected to contact the sponsor and brief a preliminary problem statement by the second class.  Each group is responsible for constructing and maintaining a group web site describing their project. The web site may be built in Blackboard and/or a site of the student's choosing.  Please use relative addressing for all internal pages.  At the end of the semester, web sites will be moved to a permanent location, where they can be viewed by future students as examples of past projects.  The web site must contain links to softcopy versions of the final presentation and final report.  Each individual student must maintain an activity log which is subject to inspection on demand.  There will be interim reports and presentations throughout the semester, including midterm and final self and peer evaluations.  At the end of the semester, students will hand in a final report and give a presentation to faculty and outside sponsors. 

Web Sites for Past Projects

Evaluation Criteria

Grades for the group will be based on the project proposal (10%), web page (5%), activity log (5%), self and peer evaluations (5%),  interim deliverables (15%), final report (30%), and faculty/sponsor evaluation of final presentation (30%).  Individual grades will be adjusted from the group grade based on the self and peer evaluations and the faculty/sponsor comments on individual final presentations.

Honor Code Policy

All George Mason University students have agreed to abide by the letter and the spirit of the Honor Code.  You can find a copy of the Honor Code at  Proper citation of sources of material is required in all deliverables, including your web site, proposal, presentations and reports.  A definition of plagiarism and advice on how to avoid plagiarism are provided by the Writing Center. All violations of the Honor Code will be reported to the Honor Committee for review.


There is no assigned text for this course.  The following are useful references on problem-solving, oral and written communications, and teamwork:
  1. How to Solve It: Modern Heuristics, by Z. Michalweicz and D.B. Fogel, Springer, 2nd edition, 2004.
  2. Exploring Requirements: Quality before Design, by D.C. Gause and G.M. Weinberg, Dorset, 1989.
  3. Adios, Strunk and White: A Handbook for the New Academic Essay by G. Hoffman and G. Hoffman, Verve, 3rd edition,   2003.
  4. Teamwork is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility,  by C. Avery, M.A. Walker, E. O'Toole, Berett-Koehler Publishers, 2001.


Jan 26 Introduction to course. Background information exchange. Project Descriptions.
Feb 02
Preliminary Problem Definition - Presentation (approx 10 min)
Feb 09
Problem Definition and Scope - Presentation (approx 10 min)
Feb 16 Project proposal due. Contains problem definition, preliminary requirements, technical approach, expected results, project plan.
Feb 23
Working session
Mar 01
Working session 
Mar 08
Progress reports - Team presentation (approx 15 min)
Mar 15 Spring break - no class (but teams may use this time to  meet)
Mar 22
Working session
Mar 29
Progress reports (approx 20 min)
Apr 05 Working session
Apr 12
Individual meetings with teams to discuss progress and plan for final presentation
Apr 19
Individual meetings with teams to discuss progress and plan for final presentation
Apr 26
Dry run of final presentation
May 03
Dry run of final presentation.  Final web site due Monday May 7.
Written final report hardcopy is due for display in SEOR office by 5:00PM Monday, May 7.
May 11
(Friday 11:30 - 16:30) Final presentations to faculty and sponsors