Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Computational modeling/optimization conference comes to Lehigh

Lehigh's Industrial and Systems Engineering department recently hosted "Modeling and Optimization: Theory and Applications" (MOPTA), a three-day international conference that brought together experts in theoretical and applied aspects of computational methodology.

Click above to visit the MOPTA 2009 Web site.

The August 19-21 conference was the most recent in an annual series initiated in 2001 by ISE department chair Dr. Tamás Terlaky during his time as Director of the School of Computational Engineering and Science at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The 2009 Lehigh event marks the first year the conference was held in the United States.

MOPTA 2009 brought together a diverse group of experts in discrete and continuous optimization, engaged in theoretical and applied aspects of computational engineering. Featured speakers from NASA's Langley Research Center, MIT, Princeton University, University of Florida, and Otto-von-Guericke Universität in Germany discussed a broad array of topics: portfolio and risk optimization, global optimization, process engineering, transportation systems, and optimal railroad design. Some 57 contributed talks from representatives of academia and industry offered a wide set of perspectives on the field to the conference's one hundred attendees.

"Optimization is at the heart of all engineering and management problems: doing things more efficiently, saving energy, accelerating production with less waste, optimizing transportation and supply chain systems," says Terlaky. "These conferences bring together top international experts who are actively engaged in theory, computational methods and various engineering areas. Events like MOPTA, and the upcoming Computational Engineering and Science (CES-HPC09) workshop in October, help to invigorate our campus' intellectual community and provide valuable opportunities for students and professionals to directly interact with those experts."

A competition that AIMMS to optimize

MOPTA also served as the final round of the 1st annual AIMMS-CPLEX/MOPTA Optimization Modeling Competition, where teams of graduate students competed in the modeling and solving of a complicated vehicle-fleet maintenance scheduling problem. 28 three-person teams from nine different countries participated in the competition, created by ISE visiting professor Imre Pólik, and sponsored by Paragon Decision Technology, developers of the AIMMS modeling system. ILOG (now part of IBM) also provided its CPLEX solver free of charge to the participants.

The teams were given three months to solve the problem and submit the details of the mathematical model supporting their solution and show an implementation of the model in the AIMMS modeling system. A panel of judges, hailing from the conference organizing committee and Paragon, evaluated the submissions, provided feedback to all teams, and selected the three finalist teams. The finalist teams -- Konrad's Truckers of Konrad Zuse Institute Berlin, Germany, Team Twente of University of Twente, The Netherlands, and Team SMU from Southern Methodist University, in Texas -- were set to present their work at a dedicated session of the conference.

But the final round of competition brought a twist -- between the end of May, when they were notified of their selection as finalists, and the date of the workshop in late August, the team received an extra aspect to the problem to incorporate into their models.

Stefan Heinz and Jonas Schweiger of Konrad’s Truckers (1st and 3rd from left), receiving the award from ISE professor Robert Storer (2nd from left) and Peter Nieuwesteeg and Gertjan de Lange of Paragon Decision Technologies.

After their conference presentations, each team faced tough questioning from a panel of judges comprised of Lehigh ISE professor Bob Storer and visiting professor Imre Pólik, and Peter Nieuwesteeg from Paragon. Scoring was based upon the teams' total effort -- their models, implementations, reports, results, oral presentations and Q&A responses.

During the conference's closing banquet, team "Konrad's Truckers" were announced as having won the competition. "After AIMMS finally announced the winner at the conference dinner, it was a big relief for us," said Stefan Heinz of the winning team. "All of our work paid off and we were quite proud to have come out on top."

For their efforts, Konrad's Truckers were awarded a free license to the AIMMS/CPLEX system -- a valuable tool for their continued research. Monetary prizes and plaques were awarded to all three finalist teams, as well.

For more information about MOPTA, please visit the conference website.

-- Amanda Fabrizio

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2009

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