Visible to the public NRC/CSTB Study on Cyber-Physical Education

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Please contact Virginia Talati (see below) you have any suggestions of people to involve in this National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunication Board study. Self-recommendations are welcome.

The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council is launching a new study titled "Toward 21st-Century Cyber-Physical Systems Education" sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

We are currently soliciting nominations for study committee members and briefers to the committee. We are looking for experts who could help the Academies address the topics below. This includes experts in STEM education, computer science and engineering expertise (e.g. sensing, control, networking), and sector-specific expertise (e.g. transportation, healthcare, etc).

Topics the study committee might usefully address include:

  • A vision for a CPS-skilled U.S. workforce, and the 2l-st century CPS-capable scientist, engineer, or skilled worker.
  • Current and anticipated workforce needs for CPS expertise.
  • Core capabilities required for various CPS careers and how such requirements can be addressed though: curriculum content, degree programs, minors/specialization, internships, informal education, degrees, and (re) certification strategies.
  • Methods to build up today's faculty preparation for CPS teaching and research including available and prospective shared resources and effective community-building strategies.
  • Identification of other barriers in the educational pipeline to developing needed CPS knowledge, skills, and capabilities.
  • Content that can be incorporated into K-12 preparation.
  • Pedagogical and resource strategies for CPS education (e.g., on-line education, team teaching, and so on).

Please contact Virginia Talati (see below) you have any suggestions of people to involve in this study. Self-recommendations are welcome. A longer description of the study is enclosed below. In addition, if there are projects, papers, or other activities that we should be aware of as we go forward, please do send along pointers to those as well.

Contact information:

Virginia Bacon Talati
Program Officer
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
National Research Council - The National Academies
vbtalati@nas.edu | 202.334.1802 | www.cstb.org


Toward 21st-Century Cyber-Physical Systems Education

Statement of Task

A National Academies study would consider the current and future needs in education for cyber-physical systems (CPS). Two workshops would be convened early on to gather input and foster dialogue, and a brief interim report would highlight emerging themes and summarize related discussions from the workshops. The final report would articulate a vision for a 2l-st century CPS-capable U.S. workforce. It would explore the corresponding educational requirements, examine efforts already under way, and propose strategies and programs to develop the needed faculty and teachers, materials, and curricula. It would consider core, cross-domain, and domain-specific knowledge and requirements. The study would focus on undergraduate education but also consider implications for graduate education, workforce training, certification, the K-12 pipeline, and informal education. It would emphasize the skills needed for the CPS scientific, engineering, and technical workforce but would also consider broader needs for CPS "fluency."

Context

Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) are smart networked systems with embedded sensors, processors and actuators that sense and interact with the physical world (including the human users) and support real-time, guaranteed performance in safety-critical applications. Such systems, in which computational and physical elements are tightly coupled, are increasing prevalent in a range of sectors, including transportation (aviation, automotive, rail, and marine), health care, manufacturing, and electrical power generation and distribution. Computing, control, sensing, and networking are deeply integrated into every component, and the actions of components and systems must be carefully orchestrated. Such systems combine sensors, actuators, computational hardware, communications networks, wireless devices, and software. Their design draws on the fruits of research from many disciplines, including computer science, electrical engineering, control theory, and materials science, among others.

Cyber-physical systems have the potential to provide much richer functionality--including "adaptability, autonomy, efficiency, functionality, reliability, safety, and usability"--than those that are loosely coupled, discrete, or manually operated. Advances in CPS could yield systems that can respond faster than humans (e.g., autonomous collision avoidance for automobiles) or more precisely (e.g., robotic surgery), could enable better control and coordination of large-scale systems such as the electrical grid or traffic controls, could improve the efficiency of systems (e.g., "smart buildings"), and could enable advances in many areas of science.

Many of the most important applications of CPS relate to economically or societally important capabilities, and have critical infrastructure or life-safety implications. Examples include:

  • Transportation. There is an urgent need to improve efficiency and safety in our transportation network. Some estimate that CPS technologies could eliminate most of the 6M automotive crashes each year caused by human error that the cost of highway congestion (currently over S8OB/year) could be greatly reduced. CPS technologies for aviation and airport safety technology could relieve congestion and enable safe integration of autonomous air vehicles into the US airspace.
  • Manufacturing. The complexity of what we are able to design and build, and what society demands is constantly increasing. The time scale for product development cycles is decreasing, even as product variety is increasing. CPS technologies could enhance both product design and manufacturing.
  • Healthcare. Challenges and opportunities provided by inexpensive sensing, ubiquitous communication and computation and the demand for 24/7 care will lead to an explosion of CPS-based medical products and services. This will help to scale access to care for an aging population. CPS correct-by-construction design methodologies could help in the design of cost-effective, easy-to-certify, and safe medical products.
  • Energy. Renewable electric energy resources are intermittent and uncertain, necessitating not only new sensors, switches and meters, but also a smart infrastructure for realizing an adaptive, resilient, efficient and cost-effective electricity distribution system that will allow consumers to manage their energy consumption.
  • Agriculture. With global population projected to surpass 9 billion people by 2050, an uncertain and changing climate future, and up to 50% of food lost between production and consumption, the efficiency of systems that generate food, fiber, feed, and biofuels need to be smarter and more efficient. CPS technologies could increase sustainability and efficiency (less waste) throughout the value chain.


The potential macro-economic benefits of the development and deployment of CPS systems in the coming decades are potentially enormous, as are the possibilities for enhanced safety and efficiency.

Each sector deploying cyber-physical systems has tended to work independently of others in developing the necessary science, engineering, workplace skills, and regulatory approach--reflecting in part the historically modest "cyber content" of most systems and organic efforts to solve the problems at hand. Today, there is growing interest in seeking advances with common application in science and engineering (including scientific and engineering principles, algorithms, models, and theories); tools (including programming languages and tools for reasoning about the properties of CPS); and building blocks (innovative hardware and software components, infrastructure, and platforms). With success in designing and deploying CPS will come new technical challenges associated with the complexity of CPS and their use in applications where there is a low tolerance for failure. Nonfunctional challenges related to dependability, safety, and security are likely to rise in importance, suggesting these as especially important areas for science and engineering advances.

These trends have important implications for education. To sustain innovation and support an industrial economy fueled by advanced cyber-physical systems technology, The U.S. will need to develop the requisite CPS researchers, educators, and a skilled scientific, engineering and technical workforce.

Unfortunately, even as the need and opportunity for advances in CPS is increasing, there are indications of an educational shortfall. Even today, there are many jobs reportedly available for which there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill them. The recent McKinsey Report, Education to Employment, notes that almost 40 percent of employers say a lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies. That report argues the need for post-secondary education to overcome high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills.

CPS has been a focus of federal research investment and faculty positions in CPS are now being created at a number of universities across the nation, but educational efforts have not been carried out in a broad or sustained fashion, which leads to concerns that the educational pipeline is neither teaching enough students the foundations for CPS studies nor preparing them for CPS careers.

To make progress, it will be important to understand the nature of current barriers and to develop strategies to overcome them. One challenge is the multidisciplinary character of educational foundations for CPS literacy. Looking across computer science, electrical engineering, and other engineering disciplines will be critical. Moreover, the audience for education in CPS is not found only in a traditional academic context where disciplines and knowledge are relatively settled. The challenges also include re-educating today's faculty, devising new preparation paths for university computer science and engineering students, upgrading K-12 teachers and the K-12 pipeline, as well as the existing workforce. New modalities for lab-centric, team-taught, and online education are emerging, which merit investigation as potential tools for accelerating progress toward a more CPS-capable workforce and society.

Proposed Activity

For this study, an interdisciplinary expert committee would be assembled with approximately 12-15 individuals from a range of domains and science/engineering disciplines. The committee would approximately 6 times over the course of the study. It would plan and host 2 workshops early in the study process to gather input and foster dialogue.

Topics the workshops and study committee might usefully address include:

  • A vision for a CPS-skilled U.S. workforce, and the 2l-st century CPS-capable scientist, engineer, or skilled worker.
  • Current and anticipated workforce needs for CPS expertise.
  • Core capabilities required for various CPS careers and how such requirements can be addressed though: curriculum content, degree programs, minors/specialization, internships, and informal education, degrees, and (re) certification strategies.
  • Methods to build up today's faculty preparation for CPS teaching and research including available and prospective shared resources and effective community-building strategies.
  • Identification of other barriers in the educational pipeline to developing needed CPS knowledge, skills, and capabilities.
  • Content that can be incorporated into K-12 preparation.
  • Pedagogical and resource strategies for CPS education (e.g., on-line education, team teaching, and so on).

The committee will issue two reports. An interim report after the workshops have been completed will highlight key emerging themes and summarize related discussions from the workshops. A final report with findings and recommendations drawing on the workshops, other inputs received, and additional briefings as needed, will be issued at the end of the project.

The National Academies Study Process

This project would be undertaken under the aegis of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Academies.

The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board was established in 1986 to provide independent technical and policy analysis relating to information technology. A pioneer in framing and assessing Internet and information policy issues, CSTB works by engaging groups of leaders from industry and academia who present differing views and deliberate about trends and impacts. It provides a neutral meeting ground for the exchange of ideas among academia, industry, and government--a tri-sector division that embraces a range of non-profit organizations--plus a track record of producing quality results that have influenced debate and decision making in a variety of spheres. CSTB is unique in its comprehensive scope and effective, interdisciplinary appraisal of technical, economic, social, and policy issues. (See http://www.cstb.org for more on CSTB.)

For this project an interdisciplinary committee would constitute the responsible body. Committee members are drawn from nominations by individuals and organizations who are active in the area, through a process carefully vetted within the National Academies; suggestions for committee members with relevant attributes are solicited broadly from sponsors and other interested parties. The mixture of people envisioned will assure intellectual cross-fertilization and a fresh look at the issues involved.

As a committee empanelled by the National Academies, this committee will have intellectual responsibility for developing a line of thought and generating compelling reports. The length of the process ensures that the committee will have time to learn how to communicate within its membership as well as with others, to gather relevant information and opinions, and to develop and refine a shared set of ideas. Also, the National Academies context allows a committee to draw on its wisdom to pursue issues and lines of thought that emerge as it works: this flexibility lets us make the most of the talent assembled.

Academy committees meet, confer electronically, and build analyses through their deliberations. The neutral auspices provided by the National Academies and the search for consensus motivates the finding of new ideas for broad communities to pursue and common ground where there are key differences of opinion. Additional expertise from around the country is tapped in a rigorous process of review and critique, further enhancing the quality of Academy reports. Groups of people of stature comparable to the committee and with a relevant mix of attributes are asked to submit review comments, and the committee and staff work to assure maximal constructive response to those comments.