The History Column: Part 1 Interview with Bob Rassa

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The Saga of Systems Engineering
8 months 1 week ago
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This is the inaugural article in a series that delves into the rich history of systems engineering and highlights notable individuals in the field. In this edition, we have the privilege of speaking with the esteemed founder of the IEEE System Council, Bob Rassa. Bob graciously shares his experiences, triumphs, and the obstacles he has encountered throughout his journey.

Our host, Qusi Alqarqaz, is an accomplished IEEE senior member who contributes to prestigious publications such as IEEE Spectrum and The Institute. With over 33 years of experience in the electric power industry, he brings a wealth of knowledge as an electrical engineer, engineering manager, and consultant.

Bob Rassa, the retired Director of Engineering Programs at Raytheon Technologies Intelligence and Space Systems, has been instrumental in establishing the IEEE System Council. Recognized with an award from the council, his expertise and contributions have left an indelible mark on the field.

Qusi begins the conversation by expressing his admiration for Bob's remarkable achievements and the honor of speaking with him. They delve into the early stages of the system council, with Bob recalling his pivotal role in its creation. He shares how his work in the defense industry led him to recognize the need for systems engineering, particularly in testing radar systems. Bob's investigation revealed that the issue lay not with the test equipment but with the radar systems themselves, which lacked the necessary design for testing and maintenance.

Realizing the significance of systems engineering, Bob initiated the formation of system engineering departments within Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon. To expand the scope and share best practices, he approached the National Security Industrial Association, ultimately leading to the involvement of defense contractors and collaboration with the Pentagon. Through Bob's efforts, the term "systems engineering" found its place in the Department of Defense, a groundbreaking achievement.

After dedicating several years to promoting systems engineering in military systems, Bob recognized the need for its application in the commercial environment. Drawing upon his membership in the IEEE, he proposed the establishment of a council focused on system engineering. This endeavor came to fruition after a year of hard work, resulting in the birth of the Systems Council. Originally intended as the System Engineering Council, the name was modified to the Systems Council to resolve a debate surrounding its scope.

Since its inception in 2005, the Systems Council has grown and thrived, thanks to the vision and leadership of Bob and his fellow pioneers. Their relentless dedication to advancing systems engineering has shaped the field and continues to inspire future generations.

Stay tuned for more captivating articles in this series, where we will dive deeper into the fascinating world of systems engineering and highlight the remarkable individuals who have contributed to its evolution.

Watch the Interview - Part 1

The interview has been split into the following segments: