Gurobi Introduces New Interactive Educational Game Highlighting the Power of Optimization

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BEAVERTON, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE). The Burrito Optimization Game is a free, web-based app designed for data science and operations research students, and anyone who wants to benefit from mathematical optimization. The game not only demonstrates the value of optimization, but also its difficulty and the importance of algorithms and solvers in finding an optimal solution.

Gurobi created the burrito optimization game in collaboration with Dr. Larry Snyder of Lehigh University, who explains that at the time he and Gurobi started working on the project, there were several other projects in the data science community using the premise of finding a hypothesis new place. Projects evaluated potential locations based on demographics, demand, and other data science factors.

“As optimizers, we know it can be easy to pick the best location once you have a score, but when you need to pick five, ten or fifty locations, especially when there are thousands to choose from, that’s a whole different kind of problem ” says Dr. snyder “So we decided to use this as a way to introduce the optimization story, hoping that the idea of ​​first creating a score for each location and then putting that into an optimization context would resonate, even with data scientists, who hadn’t seen the restaurant examples.”

Gurobi’s game is based on a classic location problem and allows players to choose the best locations for a “Guroble” food truck with the aim of maximizing their overall profit. For each level, players are presented with a new story with added complexity and a set of data that will help them make decisions. The data provided typically includes the cost of each truck, the price of ingredients, and the total revenue for each burrito sold, as well as scenarios that will impact decision-making — such as disruptions in the burrito ingredients supply chain or weather conditions affecting the effect a customer’s willingness to travel.

Players can drag and drop their Guroble trucks onto an illustrated map where they can see how many customers are in each building. The closer the truck is to a building, the more customers from that building will be willing to go to the truck to buy a burrito. Players can see their winnings adjust as they drag and drop the truck to a different location, underscoring the importance of trade-offs when making complex decisions.

Once a player is happy with the placement of the trucks, Gurobi solves the problem and finds the optimal solution within a split second. Players can then see how far they were from the optimal solution in terms of overall win.

The game also offers tips to enhance the learning experience once players have submitted their solution. For example, players might be notified that a certain part of the city is underserved, or see an indication that their solution has the optimal number of trucks, but in the wrong locations.

In subsequent rounds, the game introduces uncertainties for an additional challenge. Players must base their solutions in this game on forecasts rather than actual demand – a concept very familiar to data science students. For example, 25 potential customers can be forecast in a building, but the actual number can deviate by up to five customers. Error bars indicate how far actual requirements might go either way.

“We hope to convey that not only is it tedious and time-consuming when you try to do optimization through trial and error, but it is also difficult to make good decisions,” explains Dr. snyder “We also wanted to make it clear that optimization, while difficult, is a mature scientific field with robust commercial and open-source software that can solve these problems for us.”

“We started this some time ago and the early feedback has been extremely positive,” explained Dr. Edward Rothberg, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Gurobi Optimization. “A common reaction from optimization professionals is excitement at the prospect of showing the people they work with in a simple and fun way what kind of problems optimization can solve and the power it brings.”

The burrito optimization game is available on Gurobi’s website, accompanied by a range of resources that highlight intended pedagogical insights and explain how educators can teach the game in a classroom or how players can use the game themselves.

About the Gurobi optimization

Gurobi produces the world’s fastest and most powerful mathematical optimization solver – the Gurobi Optimizer – which is used by leading global companies in more than 40 different industries to quickly solve their complex, real-world problems and make automated decisions that optimize their efficiency and profitability. As the market leader in mathematical optimization software, we aim to deliver not only the best solver, but also the best support to enable companies to leverage the power of mathematical optimization (alone or in combination with other AI techniques such as machine learning) to drive optimal business decisions and outcomes.

Founded in 2008, Gurobi operates across the Americas, Europe and Asia and has more than 2,500 customers worldwide including SAP, Air France, Uber and the National Football League (NFL). For more information, please visit https://www.gurobi.com/ or call +1.713.871.9341.

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