Advancing Control and Game Theory in the Midwest

Randy Freeman and Ermin Wei served as the co-organizers of the 10th Midwest Workshop on Control and Game Theory (MWCGT), hosted at Northwestern on April 27 – 28

10th Midwest Workshop on Control and Game Theory10th Midwest Workshop on Control and Game Theory

Control theory is the study of how one can use feedback to modify the behavior of a system — such as a robot, vehicle, chemical or biological process, power grid, stock portfolio, or an ecosystem — so that it matches some desired behavior. A self-driving car, for instance, collects information about its surroundings and uses control tools to maintain the correct trajectory.

The related field of game theory models and predicts how strategic decision-makers can obtain good individual or group outcomes from a process affected by the collective decisions of all players, given that each player has limited information about the behavior of other players.

Randy Freeman (l) and Ermin Wei (r)Northwestern Engineering’s Randy Freeman and Ermin Wei served as the co-organizers of the 10th Midwest Workshop on Control and Game Theory (MWCGT), held April 27 – 28 at Northwestern University.

Founded by Tamer Başar of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 2012, MWCGT is an annual control and game theory forum that brings together students, researchers, and practitioners to expand their professional networks and discuss new research results, innovative applications, and perspectives on future directions.

Alan V. Sahakian, professor of electrical and computer engineering and (by courtesy) biomedical engineering and senior adviser to the dean at the McCormick School of Engineering, welcomed the 120 MWCGT attendees.

Randall Berry, John A. Dever Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering presented joint work with PhD student in electrical engineering Pawan Poojary. In this research, Poojary and Berry consider a sequential observational learning setting, such as an online market, where buyers seek to learn the quality of an item up for sale from observations of other buyers’ actions in the presence of fake agents.

Additional MWCGT speakers included faculty from Loyola University Chicago, Miami University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, UIUC, University of Alabama, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The talks at the workshop addressed a variety of applications, including physical human-robot interactions, animal sensorimotor systems, epidemic modeling and control, and fleet management in manufacturing.

Freeman highlighted a talk by Geir Dullerud (UIUC), who reported on the results of an experiment in which he and his colleagues gave textbook questions from an undergraduate course in control theory to various large language models, and then graded their responses.

“The best model would have earned a B in the course, which prompted interesting discussions about the impact AI may have on undergraduate education in control theory,” said Freeman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northwestern Engineering.

Wei, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, industrial engineering and management sciences and (by courtesy) computer science, noted the broad range of topics covered at the workshop. Lisa Li (University of Michigan) discussed her ongoing work investigating how control theory can be used to model how animals walk or fly following signals in a biological neural system.

Haifeng Xu from the University of Chicago built a game theoretic model to study content creation on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram and demonstrated how an AI content creator can co-exist with human content creators,” Wei said. “Instagram is currently doing a live test of their proposed incentive designs and has already showed promising results.”

Approximately 30 PhD students and postdocs from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) attended the workshop, and several presented posters.

The Northwestern Engineering volunteers that helped manage event logistics included ECE PhD students Henry Abrahamson, Kangle Mu, Pawan Poojary, Zhenyu Sun, Zongyun Xie, and Lihui Yi; ECE postdoctoral scholar Ningning Ding; ECE visiting pre-doctoral fellow Martial Felix; and Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences PhD students Xiaochun Niu and Mengfan Xu.

McCormick News Article