A number of things can be done to build and foster cyber-physical systems (CPS) programs that support current and future workforce needs. One is early exposure to CPS concepts and applications in K-12 and introductory college courses. Another is to build the needed teaching faculty, which is challenging because the traditional academic pipeline at many universities has few mechanisms in place that support extensive faculty commitment to an interdisciplinary field. Additionally, the resources needed to teach CPS courses, including textbooks, testbeds, and laboratory space, may be limited. This chapter discusses steps that academic institutions, industry (Box 4.1), and the National Science Foundation can take to strengthen undergraduate CPS education.
Students are likely to be initially attracted to CPS through exposure to CPS-related technical areas such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, and the Internet of Things (IoT) or exposure to applications that address national and global problems in areas such as sustainability, environmental issues, and health. Beyond that, students may need some link to be drawn between these topics and the discipline of CPS.
As discussed in Chapter 3, a strong K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) foundation and exposure to CPS concepts and applications can help attract students and prepare them for undergraduate study in CPS. Notably, several of the K-12 STEM programs
introduce students to CPS concepts, and many are based on robotics.1 By using concrete CPS examples, these programs are an effective way to introduce the concepts of CPS and highlight their correlations with elements of their STEM education.
At the undergraduate level, the concepts of CPS can be reinforced by again making the link between CPS and related technology areas. As recommended in Chapter 1, this introduction to CPS can be part of freshman “introduction to engineering” programs. Faculty need not shy away from topics that pique student interest even as they stress the CPS foundations that underpin such areas.
Students, particularly those at universities, are acutely aware of job opportunities and salaries associated with various engineering disciplines. Therefore, promoting job needs and compensation for CPS graduates to high-school seniors and undergraduate and graduate students will also promote the field. Invited lecturers and from industry can help make introductory (and other CPS) courses current and compelling and also expose students to opportunities in industry.
1 Examples include such as the FIRST Lego League (http://www.firstlegoleague.org/), which brings STEM robotics to younger children starting in the 4th grade, First Robotics (see http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc), the University of California, San Diego, COSMOS program (http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/cosmos/index.shtml), or RoboCup Junior (http://rcj.robocup.org/), accessed November 1, 2016.
FINDING 4.1: Although there are many STEM courses and programs at the high school and undergraduate level that introduce the students to some CPS elements such programs often do not provide a broad introduction to CPS foundations and principles and tend to be focused either on overly simplistic applications or on too discipline-centric content.
RECOMMENDATION 4.1: Those developing K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and educating and training STEM teachers should consider opportunities to enrich these programs with cyber-physical systems (CPS) concepts and applications in order to lay intellectual foundations for future work and expose students to CPS career opportunities.
FINDING 4.2: Incoming college students appear to be unfamiliar with the term CPS, CPS concepts, and job opportunities in CPS. They are, however, drawn to courses and programs in more widely visible, CPS-related topics such as robotics, the IoT, health care, smart cities, and the Industrial Internet.
RECOMMENDATION 4.2: Those developing cyber-physical systems engineering courses and programs should consider leveraging the visibility of and student interest in areas such as robotics, the Internet of Things, health care, smart cities, and the Industrial Internet in descriptions of careers, courses, and programs and when selecting applications used in courses and projects.
CPS exists not only across disciplines, but also at the intersection of various disciplines. Faculty teaching CPS foundational, specialized, or project-based courses will need to have an understanding of the multidisciplinary aspects of the CPS spectrum. CPS faculty will not only need depth in a particular aspect of CPS, but will also need the capability to relate their expertise to the other aspects of a complete CPS system and its respective domain-specific needs. The steps for recruiting, retaining, and developing the needed CPS faculty are briefly discussed below.
More new CPS-specific faculty will be produced as more research is pursued in the field. In the long term, the ideal faculty recruit will (1)
have graduated with a CPS degree or specialization and (2) have a record of conducting CPS-specific research. Another source of faculty would be those with industrial experience in CPS technologies. It is furthermore expected that the calls for faculty positions will explicitly mention CPS education and research. In fact, even now there are already several universities that include CPS in their call for new faculty.
Currently and in the near-future before CPS education is well established, CPS faculty recruitment will require departments to look for faculty who will have both intense depth but also breadth. Recruiters will look for charismatic faculty with a high-level of initiative who will play an important role in drawing students to CPS education. Recruitment also requires the opening of teaching slots, which will inevitably lead to competition for these slots from more traditional research areas.
It must be acknowledged that the teaching capital for current students is already limited, and universities may be reluctant to add additional constraints by taking on CPS as a new discipline within existing programs. As a result, new hires tend to be limited to individuals who can support a university’s current core curriculum. Therefore, developing a specific CPS degree program will create clear opportunities for hiring individuals with a teaching and research background focused specifically on CPS.
The current academic system, in particular tenure and promotion decisions, builds strongly upon the depth in the faculty’s own field and through publications that are often discipline limited. Because CPS faculty will have a broader profile of research, they may publish in a variety of venues, and the current promotion criteria may limit the development of CPS-centric faculty. However, there are a number of well-recognized conferences in CPS (e.g., CPS Week), as well as textbooks and a new Association of Computing Machinery journal Transactions on Cyber-Physical Systems. Such events and publication venues create a growing academic community around CPS. Young CPS faculty with a multidisciplinary profile can then establish themselves as CPS researchers and still meet the academic evaluation criteria. Interestingly, given the novelty of the area, young faculty could more easily become leaders in the CPS field, as they do not need to find a place in other more mature fields with a large number of well-established and well-recognized leaders.
Faculty members who have a proven record in their own field and then venture into this more interdisciplinary field once they achieve tenure do much of the existing CPS education and research. In the future, the committee envisions the development of new entry-level faculty as CPS educators. Given the already broad scope of this study, the committee did not explore the development of Ph.D. programs in CPS in any depth. For example, it did not consider the extent to which much of the training necessary for Ph.D. students might be covered by the educational content in master’s-level programs. Nevertheless, over time, provided that demand for faculty and research funding opportunities are both sustained, it is reasonable to anticipate that institutions will start establishing Ph.D. programs in CPS. Moreover, if CPS follows the pattern of other engineering disciplines, Ph.D.-level engineers will fill important technical leadership roles in industry and more Ph.D.’s will take jobs in industry than will pursue academic careers, contributing further to demand for Ph.D. programs in CPS.
While the new specialized CPS faculty is emerging, the use of teaching modules may serve to alleviate some of the time and resource constraint placed on educators. The committee envisions that faculty experts in multiple CPS disciplines could then design and co-teach new courses or build course modules so that the students can be jointly taught the combined material. Such co-teaching opportunities will lead to the development of the co-teaching faculty as increasingly proficient CPS educators. Professional organizations such as the American Society of Engineering Educators can help promote the development of innovative teaching in CPS and develop conference tracks to promote the exchange of information about best practices in CPS education.
Industry experts can contribute to the development of CPS programs in such roles as guest lecturers and adjunct and visiting faculty. An opportunity for cross-discipline teaching arises where experts in one field partner with experts in other fields to teach a modular course.
Universities, industry, and government laboratories also must identify and reward effective CPS program mentors. For example, project-based courses where students solve well-defined problems involving real physical systems that need to be integrated with safe and secure programs will be of special significance. Students will be challenged to devise and develop solutions that actually work, and the CPS-focused research experience of undergraduates, as well as industry and government laboratory summer intern programs, will further promote the CPS discipline with undergraduates. Such programs will not be successful without dedicated mentors who can motivate students to explore CPS engineering and excite
these students about their career possibilities if they choose to pursue a CPS education.
FINDING 4.3: Because CPS is a new field that draws on multiple disciplines, not all institutions can be expected to have enough faculty with the requisite knowledge to teach all of the courses needed for a CPS degree program.
RECOMMENDATION 4.3: The National Science Foundation should support the development of cyber-physical systems faculty through the use of teaching grants and fellowships.
Chapter 3 lays out several options for education programs at the undergraduate level—from survey courses to full degree programs. Common features of all of these options is that new or redesigned courses will be needed in order to teach the complexities of CPS and that opportunities for hands-on work, which is key to re-enforcing key concepts and integration, is essential.
In order for universities to support new education programs, they will need the appropriate resources, including new textbooks and testbeds and laboratory space. A limited number of textbooks, curricular materials, and laboratory facilities exist to support CPS.
Few textbooks exist that provide a complete overview of CPS; these textbooks are essential to teaching well-designed survey courses. The committee was encouraged by the release of several textbooks during its work. Edward Lee and Sanjit Seshia compiled a new textbook, Introduction to Embedded Systems: A Cyber-Physical Systems Approach, when developing their survey course at University of California, Berkeley, because one simply did not exist that met their needs.2 Rajeev Alur also released another text, Principles of Cyber-Physical Systems, in 2015.3
Traditional course textbooks for standard engineering courses, such as controls or signal processing, may not fully incorporate the effects of the physical system on cyber technology, and vice versa. Just as courses will need to be significantly redesigned, so will textbooks. Both may sometimes be accomplished by supplementing existing materials with CPS material, exercises, and laboratory projects.
Furthermore, CPS are often very complex and students need a full
3 R. Alur, 2015, Principles of Cyber-Physical Systems, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
understanding of how the physical environment impacts these systems. Realistic models can provide some of this knowledge, but hands-on engagement through project-based learning is integral to developing an understanding of CPS complexities, and participation in complex interdisciplinary projects will help develop needed systems-level thinking. Providing students with these opportunities depends on having the appropriate facilities.
Design laboratories where students can work on integrative CPS projects with multi-disciplinary teams are one option. Another is to provide students with access to testbeds that allow for the co-design of physical and computational components to demonstrate the benefits of integrating simulation and experimentation. It is also important for students to be exposed to testbeds because they are a key element of industrial practice as part of the development process. A classic example of industrial testbeds is hardware-in-the-loop, where one combines simulation and physical devices, where possible, to reduce cost and complexity and increase flexibility with physical components where simulation does not provide sufficient fidelity. Testbeds are expensive to create and maintain, and many universities do not have, or will not allocate, resources to create such testbeds. Partnerships among institutions and with industry can help share the costs and leverage existing resources, and ensure that testbeds reflect the current state of art and practice.
FINDING 4.4: If they are to teach new CPS courses and build CPS programs, universities will need to allocate time and resources to develop CPS course materials and to provide the necessary laboratory space and equipment (including both virtual and physical testbeds).
FINDING 4.5: Testbeds are needed to provide students with sufficiently realistic applications and problems. These can be both virtual and physical and can be remotely accessed and shared among multiple institutions and developed and operated in cooperation with industry.
RECOMMENDATION 4.4: The National Science Foundation, professional societies, and universities should support the development and evolution of cyber-physical systems textbooks, class modules (including laboratory modules), and testbeds. These parties should partner with industry in developing and maintaining realistic testbeds.
As discussed above, more can be done to raise awareness about career opportunities in CPS among prospective students. In industry, although there is growing awareness of the need for CPS skills, the full set of skills required to effectively engineer CPS is not universally appreciated.
Sustained support for research allows students to focus their graduate research on CPS, which in turn produces the next generation of entry-level faculty that can build and teach the discipline. Research also generates papers for conferences and journals and creates innovative ideas and startup spinoffs. All of these byproducts of research funding help to define CPS as an accepted discipline and raise awareness at all levels within the technical community. CPS will also become more visible as formal specializations and degree programs emerge and as CPS-trained engineers make significant contributions to industry.
Those within the field can assist by reaching out to industry, preparing materials, and participating in workshops and seminars to broaden understanding of what CPS is (and is not), the complicated nature of CPS, and what can be gained by hiring people more formally educated in the field of CPS. Such education can be passive (e.g., availability of material on websites) or active through workshops and seminars.
At universities, some of the push for CPS education will naturally occur from the bottom-up—that is, faculty making the effort to incorporate CPS material into the curriculum and develop CPS courses. However, as with any emerging interdisciplinary area, if these initiatives are to take root, the encouragement and support of university administrators will be essential. Many university administrations already promote teaching and research closely aligned with CPS, such as curricula emphasizing engineering applications with direct societal impact and engineering programs oriented toward interdepartmental teamwork and complex, real-world systems. University administrations can additionally support emerging or planned CPS education by providing the necessary personnel, laboratory space, and initiation grants.
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