Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Army Cyber Institute, Systems Engineering

Publication Date

Fall 11-2018

Publication Title

Proceedings of the Interservice/INdustry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference 2018

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


A significant challenge in teaching simulation to undergraduate students is to find a way to allow them to model a real world referent system within time and student skill constraints. Several research sources highlight not only the important challenge of model development (Garcia and Ceneno, 2009, Tako, 2011) but also the increased need for model development instruction among engineers (Grasas et. al., 2013, Saltzman and Roeder, 2013). One approach to this challenge is to use a general purpose discrete event simulation software package within the course, but this presents two challenges. Teaching the package to the students takes significant time, and the package introduces limitations which may restrict their ability to model certain real-world referents, particularly in the engineering domain. A conceptual approach to solving this problem is to use a model development paradigm that abstracts away the interface to the simulation infrastructure while still allowing the students to use the full expressive nature of a programming language. Two undergraduate courses at the United States Military Academy employed this strategy via the Discrete Events Specification System – Distributed Modeling Framework (DEVS-DMF) (Kewley et. al, 2016). The DEVS abstraction allowed students to think about their model as a simple state change function with defined inputs and outputs, and DMF allowed them to program in a cloud-based Jupyter Notebook using the Python language. Students in a combat modeling course employed a variety of models to understand drone jamming, and students in an engineering capstone project employed models to account for human factors in rifle marksmanship. The effectiveness of this approach was assessed through student grades, exit-interviews, and course-end surveys. These assessments showed an increased understanding of the model development process, and students also reported greater ownership of their models. However, this experiment also highlighted some weaknesses in their understanding of underlying methodologies and programming skills.