We investigate the cost and benefit of crowdsourcing solutions to an NP-complete powertrain design and control problem. Specifically, we cast this optimization problem as an online competition, and received 2391 game plays by 124 anonymous players during the first week from the launch. We compare the performance of human players against that of the Efficient Global Optimization (EGO) algorithm. We show that while only a small portion of human players can outperform the algorithm in long term, players tend to formulate good heuristics early on, from where good solutions can be extracted and used to constrain the solution space. Incorporating this constraint into the search enhances the efficiency of the algorithm, even for problem settings different from the game. These findings indicate that human computation is promising in solving comprehensible and computationally hard optimal design and control problems.

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