Honors Theses


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Computer Science and Engineering


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Computer Science

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Artificial neural networks, which mimic the human brain's ability to learn from experiences, are increasingly being used to analyze complex datasets. However, proper structural configuration requires intuition, trial-and-error, and frequent human attention. This study investigates an automated alternative that uses a Darwinian evolutionary strategy to optimize the structure of a small-scale Modified National Institute of Standards and Technology (MNIST) image classification network. Using accuracy as a measure of fitness, it examines the effect of varying the amount each network learns prior to differential reproduction. The accuracy of optimized networks was significantly higher than random initial networks, being increased by up to 0.133% (1.435 standard deviations above initial mean accuracy). The use of evolutionary strategies in design holds promise for producing networks that are appreciably more accurate than randomly-generated networks without a large ongoing input of human attention.

Publication Date


First Advisor

Archibald, Christopher

Second Advisor

Bethel, Cindy L.

Third Advisor

Gardner, Becky