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Considering Systems and Controls

Our world is filled with systems.
There are natural systems like space systems and watersheds.
There are human controlled systems like the levees along a river or the San Antonio Water System.
There are human made systems like school districts, electric grids and computer systems.
There are even intangible systems like languages.

What is a system?


Complex systems have control mechanisms. Without controls the systems are likely to breakdown or malfunction.

1. For each system shown in bold write its major function.
2. Identify three (3) controls.
3. Give an example of a breakdown or malfunction of that system.

You may not know much about the system. You may need to learn more about a system to find the examples of controls.
Harness available resources to complete the exercise.



Vehicle (identify 2 controls)




Cafeteria (identify 2 controls)


Desert Ecosystem


Vertebrate's Digestive system (identify 2 controls)


Communication system


A communication device (identify 2 controls)


Extend your thinking:

Find a similarity in the functioning of controls for two of the systems.


Sometimes two systems interact and specialized controls are developed.
Give an example where the highway system and the school system interact and have developed specialized controls.


Could one of these systems be improved with a change in a control? Explain.


In something that consists of many parts, the parts usually influence one another.

Watch The Disappearing Delta: Losing Ground. Identify the system. Give an example of how one part of the system influences another part of the system.


How has man impacted this system?


What should happen now?


A picture is worth...

People seek to understand systems by mapping them. Give an example.



"Something inside me makes me want to learn, want to explore, want to create." Steve Wozniak



The First American Party System | Choosing the Right Database System | Cities Are Urban Ecosystems | An Atlas of Cyberspace | Understanding GIS

Emergence - do it yourselves order

Watch - Meet Computer Engineer iWoz | Science Net Links - Systems | Break It Down | Da Vinci

The Yes Men - democracy for sale - Try your hand at this approach to dealing with a problem facing you today.

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2007 Cynthia J. O'Hora This activity may be printed for individual use in a nonprofit setting. Posted 2/2007

tree icon Save a tree use a digital answer format - Highlight the text. Copy it. Paste it in a word processing document. Save the document in your folder. Answer on the wp document in a contrasting color (not yellow) or font. Or perhaps you have the resources to record verbal answers. If you do, be sure to first read / record the question. Then record the answer immediately after it.

Proof your responses. It is funny how speling errors and typeos sneak in to the bets worck. smiling icon

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Aligned with Pennsylvania Academic Standards for: Science and Technology and Reading, Writing, Listening