Project Guidelines

Project groups are teams of 2-3 students. The project topic must be a multidisciplinary design problem.

The projects will be incorporated into the course via part (b) of the assignments, the final presentations and a final report. Here we outline the expected progression of the project:

  1. Select a multidisciplinary system to study.
  2. Characterize the system, identifying important subsystem models and interactions, selecting important design variables, objective function and constraints.
  3. Develop subsystem models. Existing simulation models may be used, or new models may be developed. Reexamine model partitioning and ensure interface control.
  4. Benchmark against an existing system or design to measure the fidelity of the model. Refine the model if necessary.
  5. Formulate the optimization problem. Select and apply an appropriate optimization technique after some initial sampling of the design space.
  6. Identify competing trades in your system. Perform sensitivity analyses.
  7. Obtain and evaluate systematic MSDO results for your system. Compare optimal designs with initial, manual guesses. Identify limitations of subsystem models.
  8. Identify additional objective functions. Perform multiobjective optimization.
  9. Identify ways to expand your system and increase model fidelity. Review and critique your definition of "optimal".
  10. Summarize the project and results in a short presentation and paper at the end of the term.

The final paper should be no more than 10 pages long, in standard 2-column conference paper format, with 12 point font title, and 11 point font text. All figures and references should be included in the paper. The paper should include the motivation for the work, the problem formulation, discussion of the models and simulation methods used and validation done, the optimization algorithms used and a rationale for why they are used, and discussion of results including the sensitivities and tradeoffs found. The final paper is due on the final day of presentations.

Project Oral Presentation Grading Rubric

Problem formulation


J, g, h, x, p,…

Modeling and simulation

Benchmarking and validation

Complexity/model fidelity

Multidisciplinary analysis


Algorithms used (rationale)

Algorithm tuning

Sensitivity analysis

Post-optimality analysis

Multi-objective & tradeoff analysis






Time management


Project Examples

All student work is courtesy of anonymous MIT students unless otherwise indicated, and is used with permission.


Wind Turbine Blade Design Optimization

Paper (PDF)

Presentation (PDF - 2.1MB)


Supersonic Business Jet: Design Space Exploration and Optimization

Josiah VanderMey and Hassan Bukhari

Paper (PDF)

Presentation (PDF)


Barge Design Optimization

Paper (PDF - 1.3MB)

Presentation (PDF)


Space Shuttle External Tank Optimization

Paper (PDF)

Presentation (PDF - 1.5MB)

Airbag-Based Crew Impact Attenuation Systems for the Orion Vehicle – Single Airbag Optimization

Paper (PDF)

Presentation (PDF)