Earlier this month, the latest installment of the ‘Annual Complex Systems 270 Poster Contest and Pizza Party’ taught by David Sabin-Miller, took place throughout the 7th floor of Weiser Hall.  Classmates and guest judges attended - including Patrick Grim, who started the ‘poster session’ tradition in December of 2015 when he taught CMPLXSYS 270. That first poster session had about 8 posters, and donuts and hot chocolate were served. This term’s class size has increased to 41 students, who presented 24 posters, and enjoyed Joe’s Pizza, Cinnaholic sweets and Panera tea.

Guests and fellow students chose two clear winners. The project of Michael Peng, “Agent Airlines,” and the project of Ashwin Kumar, “Learning to School,” received the vast majority of votes. Michael’s project expands on research he is undertaking in the College of Engineering. They are tackling the massive scheduling meltdown experienced by Southwest Airlines in December of 2022 during Winter Storm Elliot. The project tried to find: “How can we use an Agent-Based Model to simulate the network dynamics of disruption propagation, validate recovery strategies, and help dispatchers make cancellation and recovery decisions during a disruption.”


Michael Peng with his project "Agent Airlines"
Ashwin Kumar with his "Learning to School" poster

In Ashwin’s presentation, “Learning to School - Optimizing Swarm Behavior with Genetic Algorithms”, he uses agent-based models to show how fish ‘school’ in response to predators. Ashwin noted, “In thinking I had more debugging to do in my genetic algorithm - a lot of the issues I ran into weren't actually mistakes, but surprising features of the complex system I was modeling. One notable example was when my simulated fish all decided to evolve negative fear of predators and try to swim directly toward oncoming predators. I thought that I was accidentally selecting the worst fish instead of the best, but it actually turned out that my settings for the predator's size and turning speed made the predator just clumsy enough that it missed fish that swam at them most of the time. This project is one of the few places where I can implement everything correctly and still be surprised by the system's emergent behavior.”

Ashwin also commented on the learning experience involved in making a poster that adequately boils down all the relevant information of a large and complex project - into a display that is easy for colleagues to understand. He enjoyed the process of presenting his work once it was all complete.

Congratulations to all of the CMPLXSYS 270 class members for completing their projects and presenting their work in this way. Several students commented that this was their first opportunity to participate in a poster session. Professor Sabin-Miller was glad to continue the tradition of giving these underclassmen this type of learning experience.