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About Us

According to the U.S. Department of Defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, the U.S. is in a technological and economic race to maintain its manufacturing edge. Advanced digital technologies across engineering and manufacturing must take the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem to the forefront of modernization and the fourth industrial revolution. Among the challenges is a sustained pipeline of on-point, skills-based labor.

The Institute for Digital Enterprise Advancement (IDEA), with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program and in partnership with Auburn University and Victory Solutions, targeted a high-tech niche and workforce gap. Just as computer-aided design advanced manufacturing decades ago, model-based systems engineering affords the promise and delivery of a technical edge to support national security and a robust manufacturing ecosystem.

IDEA has created a replicable, skills-based, work-learn program for community college students that supports imperatives outlined by the DoD and other federal agencies. The Systems Engineering Technology (SET) program gives graduates a ready fit into the high-tech role of MBSE modeler.

SET at the community college level results in an associate degree or a SET short certificate. Upskilling courses for professionals and initiatives introducing systems thinking to high school students are also offered under the SET Academy umbrella.

Our Mission

Enable and accelerate the incorporation of digital engineering and manufacturing into the workplace.

Our Objective

Fill increasing government and industry demand for MBSE/digital engineering capabilities to reduce product time to market.

“As an engine of economic growth, American manufacturers contribute more than $2.35 trillion to the U.S. economy — every dollar spent in manufacturing results in an additional $2.79 added to the economy, making it the highest multiplier effect of any sector.”

- Dr. Bill LaPlante, DoD undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment

Our Vision

Provide a national collaborative center for identifying, sharing, and recommending best practices and solutions in digital engineering and manufacturing workforce development.


Institute for Digital Enterprise Advancement
Board of Directors and Executive Director

David Alan Smith

Chairman & President
Victory Solutions

Terry Abel

MSFC Technical Liaison
Lockheed Martin Space

Jeff Lynn

President, Central Alabama Community College

Beth M. Richardson

United Community Bank

John Wilson, Ph.D.

Senior Systems Engineer Space Dynamics Laboratory

Charles Scales

Director of Business Development, Sierra Lobo Inc.

Greg Purdy, Ph.D.

Industrial and Systems Engineering
Auburn University

Chris Crumbly

Executive Director Institute for Digital Enterprise Advancement

Chris Crumbly is the executive director of the non-profit Institute for Digital Enterprise Advancement. IDEA advocates for and creates skills-based, digital engineering programs, primarily for community college students but also to meet upskilling needs for current professionals. The genesis of IDEA emerged from Crumbly’s 27-year engineering and executive career with NASA, as well as from his aerospace industry and academic roles. In addition to management positions at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Crumbly served as special assistant to NASA’s deputy administrator and senior space policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.


Industry partners are crucial to the success of the community college SET program with work/learn internships and apprenticeships. Providing real-world experiences and scenarios in defense, aerospace, energy, marine and other sectors demand industry input.
With proof of concept in hand, national distribution of the SET program, particularly in defense-industrial-base-dense locations, is targeted. Discussions are underway with several community colleges toward adopting the SET program in the near term.

“Being a lover of engineering and associated tasks, but not being an engineer, this seemed to be the perfect niche for me.”

Bryan | Currently supporting U.S. ground-based midcourse defense

“The concepts I learned created a strong framework for understanding the structure and behavior of the Artemis rockets and missions. I am not an engineer, but thanks to the SET program, I am comfortable with engineering language.”

Linda | Currently supporting NASA

“The SET program totally changed the career path that I thought I would be taking…Now, I enjoy going to work just to see what new product, project, model I will be working on and where this product, project and model will lead down the road.”

Gina | Currently an MBSE leader for a defense contractor

“The most satisfying part of this project [SET capstone] has been actually using all of the modeling skills we learned over four semesters. I see myself working on complex projects and have an interest in exploration projects such as the Space Launch System and Human Landing System.”

Jackson | Currently enrolled in a university engineering program

“We have more employers wanting SET graduates than we have students in the program. Our entire first cadre of students who were eligible for internships at the deadline were employed. All had their internships extended and two have already been hired full-time. And this is before they have even completed the program. The demand for SET graduates is fierce, and we are expecting that demand to increase as more employers learn about the program.”

Calhoun Community College SET instructor

Benefits of MBSE

MBSE enhances the ability to capture, analyze, share, and manage the information associated with the complete specification of a product, resulting in the following benefits:


  • Improved communications among the development stakeholders (e.g. the customer, program management, systems engineers, hardware and software developers, testers, and specialty engineering disciplines).
  • Increased ability to manage system complexity by enabling a system model to be viewed from multiple perspectives, and to analyze the impact of changes.
  • Improved product quality by providing an unambiguous and precise model of the system that can be evaluated for consistency, correctness, and completeness.
  • Enhanced knowledge capture and reuse of the information by capturing information in more standardized ways and leveraging built-in abstraction mechanisms inherent in model-driven approaches. This in turn can result in reduced cycle time and lower maintenance costs to modify the design.
  • Improved ability to teach and learn systems engineering fundamentals by providing a clear and unambiguous representation of the concepts.

From the International Council of Systems Engineering Model-based Systems Engineering Initiative, 2007 INCOSE Conference