Assistant professor Max Yi Ren.

Assistant professor Max Yi Ren.

Max Yi Ren and two colleagues won the Best Paper Award in Design Automation at the 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences in Boston.

Ren is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

His research focuses on design optimization, product/configuration design, human-computer interaction and machine learning.

The paper, “Ecoracer: Optimal Design and Control of Electric Vehicles Using Human Game Players,” explores the idea of using an online crowd, incentivized by a game, to help develop an optimization algorithm for creating and controlling design alternatives.

His co-authors are professor of mechanical engineering Panos Y. Papalambros and mechanical engineering postdoctoral fellow Alparsian Emrah Bayrak at the University of Michigan.

In their paper they look at the challenge of designing and controlling the powertrain of an electric vehicle to use the least amount of energy to drive through a track.

Ren said the problem can be defined as searching for the lowest point of a “high-dimensional” lake, a problem for which computational solutions prove to be inefficient when the track is long.

The authors discuss using a game to involve people online in helping to speed up the search process.

“We use the accumulated game plays from human players to statistically narrow down the potential search region,” Ren explained. “We show that human players have an advantage in identifying good solutions more quickly than a computer algorithm, possibly due to their richer prior knowledge gained by their experience in playing racer games.”

The research “shows the potential of solving complex design optimization problems with better integrated human-computer interactions,” he said.

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