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SYSC 514: System Dynamics

Instructor: Wayne Wakeland

Associate Professor, Systems Science. Wayne earned his Ph.D. in Systems Science, and has taught modeling and simulation courses at PSU for many years. He also has twenty years of industrial experience in manufacturing and Information Technology.


A lab and web-based course that introduces the student to the study of the dynamic behavior of continuous systems containing feedback. Vensim is the primary simulation language used in the course. "Lecture" materials are provided on the web. Class time is used to assist students in carrying out various labs that reinforce the primary concepts. Some students may find that they can take the course almost entirely remotely.

Class Format: Lab-Oriented, with materials provided via Blackboard

Not lecture-based. Lab sessions held Tuesdays, 6:40-10PM

Lab periods focus on non-graded labs, plus a graded midterm & final exam (each worth 20% of the course grade).

Time outside the lab is required for reading textbooks and web-based materials, and for completing 3 graded computer model building exercises that represent 60% of the course grade.

Course Emphasis:

Building computer models of feedback systems and using the models to study the dynamic behavior of the modeled system in order to enhance eunderstanding, predict how the system might behave under different circumstances, or find ways to improve the "performance" of the system. Such models are often used for forecasting, planning, and process analysis in business systems; for studying growth and homeostatic processes in various scientific disciplines; and for studying feedback control systems in engineering.

The models are continuous in nature, and are expressed mathematically as a set of differential equations for various "state" variables. These equations are numerically integrated by the software package in order to simulate behavior over time. The student's time is spent learning how to formulate, celibrate, and explore the dynamic behavior of such models.

Although designed as a core Systems Science course, it may also serve as an elective course in the Business School, Engineering Management, Systems ENgineering, Biology, Environmental Sciences, etc.

Students will learn the Vensim simulation software.

Required Materials:

John Sterman, Business Dynamics, Irwin McGraw Hill, 2000 (available at the PSU Bookstore).

Vensim PLE software from Ventana Systems, Inc., (SW and manuals may be downloaded for free).


Graduate standing or permission of the instructor.


Contact Wayne Wakeland:, (503) 725-4975