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Abbreviated Syllabus

AAE 550 Multidisciplinary Design Optimization
Prof. Crossley

Fall 2021

[Course Description]
[Learning Outcomes]
[Teaching Philosophy]
[Assessments, Homework and Project]
[Collaboration and Academic Integrity]
[Course Grades]

[Homepage] - [Syllabus] - [Schedule]


This is an abbreviated syllabus to give a sense of the AAE 550 course.  The official syllabus for the course is available for students enrolled in AAE 550 from Brightspace.

Course Description

AAE 550 is a fast-paced, graduate-level course that introduces students to the techniques of engineering design optimization, leading into topics needed for Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO). The course also presents application of these techniques to solve engineering design problems.

To accomplish these two tasks, AAE 550 has two overlapping parts. The first part of the course exposes students to basic concepts about and to implementation of numerical optimization techniques, assuming that the student has little or no knowledge of these topics. The second part of the course uses this knowledge as the basis for students to investigate approaches for multiobjective and multidisciplinary optimization.

Learning Outcomes

In this course, you will:
  1. acquire basic knowledge about optimization techniques
  2. become familiar with techniques for engineering design optimization
  3. understand which methods are appropriate for a given optimization application
  4. develop the ability to formulate engineering problems as optimization problems that are appropriate for a chosen method
  5. use the computer and available software to solve optimal engineering design problems
  6. practice effective technical communication by writing a report documenting your final project

Teaching Philosophy

My approach to teaching engineering design optimization relies upon having students: (1) practice formulating problems, (2) examine important features of various optimization algorithms, and (3) use computer tools to solve optimization problems.  This does not lend itself well to traditional exams, so the grade for AAE 550 will rely upon homework assignments (which essentially take the place of mid-term exams), electronic assessments (which take the place of textbook question-based homework), and a final project.


Knowledge of linear algebra and multivariate calculus. Computer programming skills sufficient to use functions available in Matlab.

Some knowledge of basic statics and strength of materials might help with understanding example and homework problems, but this is not required. Appropriate equations and formulas for these problems will be provided.


Assessments, Homework and Project

Students are to complete and submit the electronic assessments and homework assignments by the class session listed in the calendar and in the assignments available on the ; generally the time for this is 11:59pm Eastern.  Seven graded electronic assessments and four graded homework assignments are planned for the semester.  Each student will complete a final project.  This course will not have traditional examinations or a final exam.


The electronic assessments take place completely on Blackboard.  Students can view these, print the questions, leave Blackboard, solve the problems, and then revisit Blackboard to submit responses.  The assessment questions are much like the questions found at the end of each chapter in a textbook.  Responses will follow a multiple-choice format.  Grading will be automatic, and feedback to the student is nearly instantaneous.

There will be two attempts allowed for each assessment.  After the first attempt, the student’s responses and scores appear.  A second attempt completed before the due date can correct mistakes on the first submittal.  If a student submits a second attempt, the final score for the assessment will be an average of the two attempts.  In theory, this should allow you to score 100% (or nearly so) on the second attempt, which is our closest analog to “partial credit”.

We have used these assessments in past semesters, and we keep improving them; these should be close to error-free.  We have formulated and solved many versions of these problems to provide numerous alternate solutions for all of them, so that each student gets a randomly assigned selection of questions.  With this many versions of the questions, we can make mistakes.  When we find mistakes, we will let you know promptly.  Additionally, the continuing upgrade of the Blackboard software and the underlying software that drives the assessments often presents unexpected challenges.  We will do everything we can to notify you of corrections and changes promptly.  I do request your understanding, in advance, with these assessments.  


Generally, the homework assignments will focus on engineering applications.  These will require students to formulate an optimization problem based on a problem description and then solve the problem using a method covered in class.  These are more project-like, and they will generally require some time to complete; you will be unlikely to complete these successfully if you start the night before they are due.

The homework assignments will be distributed via Blackboard.  Students can download the assignment page and any sample programs or spreadsheets (when available).

Upon completing the assignment, the work must be included in an electronic document that the student uploads and submits via Blackboard.  It may take more three weeks to read, grade, and provide feedback for all assignments from 130+ students.

After the instructor and teaching assistants receive the last approved homework (see below for late assignment policy), we will provide a solution example on the Blackboard site.


A final project culminates the course.  It will be on the same scope as a homework assignment, but the problem description generated will be by the student, with the consent of the instructor.  The project must involve at least one method or approach coved in the course.  The student submits a short report (three to five pages) documenting the effort.  This report may include aspects from your job, your research project, etc. 

If you wish to use a project related to or sponsored by your employer and need a non-disclosure agreement, there is a process for doing this.  Please be sure to coordinate with Prof. Crossley.  Note that Purdue legal counsel recommends at least one month for processing.  Be sure to start this process by mid-October.

The report turned in for this class project may not be the same work turned in for a grade in another class.

Late Submittals

The Teaching Assistants and I will try to accommodate late submittals of assessments, homework, and the final project, but I can only do this if you provide us with advance notice.  You must notify the teaching team using the aae550ta@ecn.purdue.edu address three business days before the due date if you need extra time to submit your assignment.

Without advance notice, late assessments, homework assignments, or final projects will not be accepted without penalty unless there are extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control (e.g., illness, family emergency, bereavement, etc.).

Because I am concerned about fairness in the class, I do not make the solutions available until all students have turned in that assignment, including approved late submittals.  If the TAs or I have posted the solutions, we will no longer accept late homework assignments.

Grading Comments / Requests for Re-grading

There are often questions or concerns about how your assignments are graded.  The TAs and I understand this, and we will be willing to entertain questions about your grades and requests for re-grading.  However, with a class of this size, we must receive these questions and / or re-grade requests no later than one week after the graded assignments have been returned.

Collaboration and Academic Integrity

Although AAE 550 has no typical exams, ideals of academic integrity do apply to the course, and Purdue’s Honor Pledge applies: “As a Boilermaker pursuing academic excellence, I pledge to be honest and true in all that I do. Accountable together - we are Purdue."

Collaboration with other students on assessments and homework is acceptable - even encouraged - because learning from peers is a valuable addition to the educational experience.  However, each student is responsible for completing his / her / their own work.  All submitted work must be demonstrably independent from that of other students (e.g., submitting the exact same code snippets and / or discussion about your results as another student is not acceptable).

Copying and plagiarism in the homework or the final project is not acceptable.  The instructor and teaching assistants will use plagiarism detection software to screen work submitted by the students.  All code snippets included in your homework and final project must be readable; i.e., cut and paste them into your document rather than using a screen capture.

You may talk with other students, give and receive advice about structuring your Matlab scripts or Excel worksheets, as well as give and receive advice about using Matlab functions and Excel functions.

Do not share scripts or worksheets that you develop yourself or that you have modified from the examples provided by the instructor.  Do not simply copy and paste scripts that other students have developed or have modified from the examples provided by the instructor; this includes copying and pasting work from students who have taken the course in previous semesters whether you know them personally or have obtained older work from a commercial website.   The work you submit must be demonstrably independent from that of other students, so that the instructor, teaching assistants and / or graders can reliably judge your mastery of the topics.

If copying and / or plagiarism is detected, this will result minimally with a failing or zero grade for that particular assignment and, at the instructor’s discretion, may result in a failing grade for the course.  Additionally, as recommended by the Provost’s office, all incidents of academic misconduct will be forwarded to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR), where university penalties, including removal from the university, may be considered.

Students may report issues of abuse of or violation of academic integrity that they observe through the Office of the Dean of Students (http://www.purdue.edu/odos/) by calling 765-494-8778 or by email to integrity@purdue.edu

Course Grades

The final course grades will use the following weighting:

Items Weighting
Assessments 35%
Homework 45%
Project 20%

The final grades will use the plus/minus letter scheme.  The following table converts the numerical percentage score, rounded to the nearest integer value (e.g. 91.55% becomes 92%, 91.45% becomes 91%) to the corresponding letter grades.

Score Grade Score Grade Score Grade Score Grade
98 to 100% A+ 88 to 89% B+
78 to 79% C+ 68 to 69% D+
93 to 97% A 83 to 87% B 73 to 77% C 63 to 77% D
90 to 92% A- 80 to 82% B- 70 to 72% C- 60 to 62% D-

Each assessment and homework will be graded on a (points scored) / (points available) basis.  Total points available will vary, but each assessment and homework will have equal weight as other assessments and homework assignments.  Grade assignment will use the criterion (straight-scale) approach shown above, but the instructor reserves the right to curve the grades if appropriate.  Under no circumstance will the scale be more stringent than the criterion given below (e.g. 93% or above will always earn an A), and the curve will never span more than one grade scale (e.g. the lowest A possible when grades are curved is 93%).  A total score of 50% or lower will always fail.


A grade of incomplete (I) will be given only in unusual circumstances. To receive an "I" grade, a written request must be submitted prior to December 1, and approved by the instructor. The request must describe the circumstances, along with a proposed timeline for completing the course work. Submitting a request does not ensure that an incomplete grade will be granted. If granted, you will be required to fill out and sign an "Incomplete Contract" form that will be turned in with the course grades. Any requests made after the course is completed will not be considered for an incomplete grade.

Modified August 19, 2021