This paper examines students’ design exploration strategies in a sustainability-focused structural optimization task. The task was set up as a two-criteria optimization problem with the goal of simultaneously minimizing the weight and an environmental indicator for a pedal bracket design. Forty-two students in an undergraduate computer-aided design class solved this task as a week-long, take-home assignment. Our analysis shows the number of design iterations and the number of failed iterations were significant factors in determining overall performance on the task. We also found that the final shape, the number of material changes, and experiencing conflict in the objective functions between iterations, did not significantly affect task performance. Based on these findings, we discuss implications for computer-aided optimization tools in sustainable product design.

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