Today, the principles of systems engineering are applied across various industries and engineering disciplines. These principles are often very relevant to our day-to-day lives and experiences. Each day when you walk out the door it is highly probable you encounter numerous things that were shaped by systems engineering. Take traffic lights for example. Whether you live in a location where you drive, bike, walk, or utilize public transportation, it is likely you rely on traffic control systems to safely get to where you need to go.
At first glance, traffic controls may seem simple, but there are many systems engineering considerations that are required to ensure safe and efficient traffic flow: including the landscape of the surrounding area, how many vehicles typically travel through the area, the speed at which vehicles are traveling, local laws and regulations, etc.
Over the summer, three of our model-based engineering interns experienced the process of designing the systems functionality and physically building a signal-controlled intersection for “Lego City” using model-based systems engineering (MBSE), model-based definition (MBD), and a 3D printer to manufacture parts.
The project objective was to demonstrate Belcan’s model-based engineering capabilities from concept through product delivery. The team made use of a model-based authoritative data source and enabled digital traceability, reusability, and interoperable data. Additionally, the team practiced excellent communication and collaboration skills to support reaching the high-level goal of increased efficiency throughout the duration of the engineering process.
Traffic in “Lego City” has been out of control at the main intersection in town. With safety being the top priority, the city has requested a traffic light be installed to better regulate the flow of traffic. The project goal was to create a functional traffic light system for the intersection that could manage the capacity of passing through 400 cars per hour during rush hour, and 200 cars per hour outside of rush hour.
Over the course of nine weeks, our interns created a fully functional Lego traffic light system with six traffic lights and eight different light settings, which were dependent on the time of day and scenario.
This project contained many moving parts that required significant brainstorming, research, and the need for the team to learn new technology and tools. One of the heavier lifts of the project required the team to incorporate systems engineering and simulation into the system architecture model. Although this was time intensive in the initial project stages, it saved time when undergoing the physical build. When completing the physical build, not a single CAD model needed to be revised or remanufactured thanks to the up-front work of creating a robust digital twin.
Our interns successfully developed and delivered a solution to better manage traffic within “Lego City” that met all 85 project requirements. The groundwork this team laid down has the ability to be repurposed and replicated on future model-based engineering projects. This assignment was not an easy task, and we are really proud of this team for what they were able to accomplish!