A worker-centered approach to convex optimization for engineering design

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at 12:00pm to 12:45pm

Virtual Event

Presenter: Edward Burnell – PhD candidate, Ideation Laboratory at MIT


Design tools shape what engineers and their organizations consider desirable. In particular, “design models” that implement interactions amongst parameters are central to the work of early-stage concept development. Within an organization these models also work as rhetorical reinforcement, as maps labeled to argue for particular design decisions, and it is often within and around design models that workers’ perspectives clash and coalesce. This research establishes design models and their design spaces as inextricable from user experience. Specifically, although convex optimization is rarely analyzed for human factors, there is a great deal of overlap between convexity and design work. Such findings inform and are informed by GPkit, a modeling language for geometric programming developed by the speaker and used daily in both industry and academia. How organizations incorporated GPkit emerged from and inspired its syntax and algorithms, a two-way flow between mathematical structure and worker knowledge that formed contributions both to the formulation and interpretation of convex programs and to understandings of early-stage engineering design.


Edward Burnell is interested in how design tools encode organizational processes, and how we might rethink them to empower workers and democratize engineering. In 2020 he received his PhD from MIT on using convex optimization in early-stage exploration of novel design spaces. He is still catching up on all the science fiction and poetry he didn't find time to read in graduate school.

Zoom information : https://mit.zoom.us/j/95048463994


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School of Engineering (SoE)



Department of Mechanical Engineering


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