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Parameter Design Strategies: A Comparison Between Human Designers and the Simulated Annealing Algorithm

[+] Author Affiliations
Bo Yang Yu, Olivier de Weck, Maria C. Yang

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Paper No. DETC2015-47674, pp. V007T06A033; 10 pages
  • ASME 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 27th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Boston, Massachusetts, USA, August 2–5, 2015
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5717-5
  • Copyright © 2015 by ASME


Computer-based tools have great potential for facilitating the design of large-scale engineering systems. Interviews with veteran designers of desalination systems revealed that they tended to employ a trial-and-error approach to determine critical design parameters when using software design packages. A series of human experiments were conducted to observe the performance and behavior of test subjects during a series of simulated design processes involving seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plants. The subjects were mostly students with a spectrum of knowledge levels in desalination system design. The experiments showed that subjects who ranked top in performance behaved very differently from those who were bottom-ranked. The problem-solving profiles of the best performing subjects resembled a well-tuned simulated annealing optimization algorithm while the worst performing subjects used a pseudo random search strategy. This finding could be used to improve computer-based design tools by utilizing the synergy between strengths of humans and computers.

Copyright © 2015 by ASME



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