Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Seminar


Combining Cognition and Computation for Better Engineering Design


Dr. Christopher McComb


Pennsylvania State University


Friday, April 5, 2019 at 11:00:00 AM


MRDC Building, Room 3515


Dr. Katherine Fu


Engineering and design are host to a variety of challenging problems that are both analytical and generative in nature. Humans (here, mostly designers and engineers) are ideally suited to some tasks, and machines (here, mostly computers and algorithms) are well-suited to others. There exists substantial potential for integrating human and machine elements in hybrid teams that leverage that strengths of each and achieve superior performance. However, best practices for achieving this integration are sparse, and our understanding of hybrid teams evolves as new insights about teamwork and intelligent systems emerge. This seminar will explore three interrelated areas of research. The first topic will focus on using simulation, specifically agent-based modeling, to better understand design teams and organizations, including recent work on modeling cognitive style. The second topic will explore the use of deep learning to create intelligent computational tools that can support and augment the abilities of designers. Applications areas include design for additive manufacturing, structural design, and StarCraft. The final portion of the seminar will explore how the first two areas can be leveraged and extended to support the development of advanced, hybrid, human-machine teams.


Christopher McComb is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) at Penn State University, where he leads the Technology and Humans Research in Engineering Design (THRED) Group. He attended California State University-Fresno and received dual B.S. degrees in Civil and Mechanical Engineering. He later attended Carnegie Mellon University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include team-based design and engineering methodologies, deep learning for engineering design, and STEM education. McComb teaches courses in product multidisciplinary design, design decision-making, and design fundamentals, and his research is supported by DARPA, NSF, and NVIDIA.