INCOSE - CC Fostering Mentorship for STEM Students

by Taras Alexander Mykytyn


At the recent INCOSE Chesapeake Chapter’s dinner/presentation on 16 January 2019, I noted that the members of our Chapter should play an active role in various STEM activities throughout our community.  Why is this important and what impact will this have on the future of Systems Engineering?  

First and foremost, keeping students at all levels interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is challenging to say the least.  Students need great mentors, teachers, and curriculum to encourage them to pursue STEM courses and careers.  Good news is that this area is full of exciting opportunities for students and young professionals to pursue STEM-related curriculum and professional positions.  Secondly, the education institutions and private industry need to provide the opportunities and foundation for STEM, which the Great DC-Baltimore area has a large high-tech industry, great education curriculum in many counties, excellent universities and colleges, and federal and state government agencies that are technology savvy.

The INCOSE Chesapeake Chapter has had a great impact on students and engineering professions through their volunteer work in judging, mentoring, and participation in local high school, college, and professional organizations.  A sampling of specific forums that the members of this Chapter are actively engaged in:

  • PLTW (Project Lead the Way) in Howard County School Systems – students explore engineering, computer science, and technology in high school courses, covering the full-life cycle of an idea through prototyping covering requirements and business case development through preliminary and final design review. Members, volunteer as a mentor at a local high school or participating as a judge on a panel for the multiple reviews of student progress.  Taras Mykytyn has directly participated in PLTW for the last 6 years.

  • Judging at the local Science & Engineering Fairs within Anne Arundel County and Baltimore. The Chesapeake Chapter also sponsors awards through monetary funding for each of these fairs.  Clinton Hilliard has been the Science Fair Ambassador, with active participant in judging from various volunteers from our Chapter.

  • University of Maryland Systems Engineering Division – provides a focal point for dissemination of system engineering knowledge through direct involvement with the INCOSE Chesapeake Chapter. David Alldredge is advisor and Student Ambassador to this graduate student chapter.  Their active participation in local Chapter events and INCOSE international symposiums has been very productive to the students and INCOSE organizations.

What else can the Chesapeake Chapter do in the future?  Even though our members are supporting multiple venues for mentoring and judging, addressing curriculum and fairs in elementary and middle schools would entice students to gain earlier interest in STEM programs and promote the importance of having a solid foundation as more and more future jobs will be technical in nature and require skills in math and science.

A few recommendations are:

  • Develop on-line forums where students have access to resources that are available at their fingertips for answering questions of interest, assist in homework assignments, generate ideas for science projects, evaluate mobile (iOS/Android) and PC/MAC apps, and presenting how math and science are used daily in our lives.

  • Expand the concept of System Thinking throughout the K-12 classrooms, so students can gain an appreciation of thinking through complex real-world problems at the various education levels.  This can start from simple concepts and gaming theory for how a child understands building out a community and what’s critical to have in a typical town. Children enjoy role playing and visually presenting what’s important in their lives.  Leveraging use cases for a day-in-the-life of a child can teach them the benefits of infrastructure, service and support industries, and community organizations.  There are many gameboards and on-line apps that mimic building out a community and fostering cooperation and synergy between them.

Another key area that the Chesapeake Chapter can pursue is to expand its influence and partnerships outside of the aerospace and defense industries.  With the complexity of systems and services throughout other industries, there is an opportunity to expand Systems Engineering concepts, tools, processes, and professional services to address these challenges and develop viable solutions for these industries and communities.  The automotive, transportation, energy, information technology, consumer electronics, and biomedical industries could all benefit from advanced Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering application across these domains.  The INCOSE SE Vision 2025 paper has an excellent information on these topics.

The INCOSE Chesapeake Chapter continues to support the various local STEM-related forums and events.  Investing in our STEM community and students provides a solid foundation of eager and talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students to fill advanced positions in the Greater DC-Baltimore area and throughout the country.  Please consider volunteering to support these forums and events by contacting Clinton Hilliard, our Youth STEM Local Science Fairs Coordinator, at