June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
23.1331.1 - 23.1331.10
ETD IT/IET Interest Group Optimizing Optical Fiber Cable Design Using Nonlinear Programming-A Special Problems CourseThis paper describes the design and delivery of a special problems course in which we use thecase method to teach students nonlinear programming and provide them experience in attackingan ill-structured, real-world problem. Traditionally, engineering, engineering technology andbusiness students who take operations research are only taught linear programming foroptimizing a linear objective function subject to linear constraints. For many applications inengineering, operations, business and economics the linearity assumption does not accuratelydescribe either the objective or the constraints. Thus, nonlinear programming (NLP) with integeror mixed decision variables has become an important tool for optimizing various engineering andbusiness operations and physical designs. In addition, nonlinear optimization provides a moreintuitive understanding of how an optimization algorithm works through the analogy to hillclimbing. The simplex algorithm used for linear programming is non-intuitive and it can beconceptually difficult for many students to understand. The availability of affordable and user-friendly software now makes it feasible to introduce students to NLP as an extension to theiroperations research studies.The basic problem involves maximizing the number of optical fibers that can be placed into acable core having a nominally circular cross-section. Maximizing the fiber packing density formany applications minimizes the installed cost per fiber for the customer. Significantly, tofacilitate mass splicing the fibers are pre-packaged into rectangular ribbon arrays comprisingvariable fiber counts before placement into the cylindrical cable core during the manufacturingprocess. Students use integer NLP to explore the optimal design space for cables under a varietyof constraints. The formulation requires linear and nonlinear constraints to describe the addedloss, stability and symmetry criteria for the ribbon stack. Similar constraints may also existbetween the global and local rectangular geometry of the ribbon stack and the circular cross-section of the cable core. Students learn to use the LINGO software package to analyzeexemplary cable design configurations and to explore the design space. We evolve the problemcomplexity to allow the students to discover new constraints, practical considerations and how toidentify and remove infeasibilities that arise as the nature of the problem expands. Students writean engineering report, present and discuss their results. The course is team-taught by twoprofessors acting as supervisors in order to simulate communications in a typical workenvironment. The course provides students with experiential learning involving ill-structuredproblems that the National Academy of Engineering has identified as critical for competitivenessin the 21st century. It also teaches students NLP and facilitates their conceptual understanding ofoptimization algorithms.
Jackson, K. W., & Wiles, G. L. (2013, June), Using Nonlinear Programming to Optimize the Fiber Packing Density of Optical Fiber Cables- A Short Problem-Based Learning Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/22716
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