Problem Solving at Its Best

June 11, 2005

Teams from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Harvey Mudd College have each been selected to receive one of two awards for the 2005 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Mathematical Contest in Modeling. The teams competed in the 21st Annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) administered by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP). The contest included 664 teams representing academic institutions from 10 countries.

Rensselaer team members were Meral Reyhan and John Evans, while the Harvey Mudd team was comprised of Clay Hambrick, Katie Lewis, and Lori Thomas. Members of each team will receive a cash award of $300 and three one-year student memberships in SIAM. SIAM will also award each team member a travel grant of $500 toward attending the 2005 SIAM Annual Meeting in New Orleans this July, where they will be honored at the awards luncheon.

The MCM contest allows teams four days to solve one of two challenging problems by using mathematical tools. Rensselaer's problem required teams to propose a model that would help determine the optimal number of tollbooths in a barrier toll plaza. Their solution paper is titled "A Quasi-Sequential Cellular Automaton Approach to Traffic Modeling." Peter Kramer, assistant professor of mathematics at Rensselaer, was the faculty adviser for the team at the MCM contest.

Harvey Mudd's problem asked the teams to develop a model showing the consequences of massive dam failure. The title of their paper offering a solution was "From Lake Murray to a Dam Slurry." Harvey Mudd's advisor was Professor Jon T. Jacobsen.

The MCM is a unique international contest for high school students and college undergraduates designed to stimulate and improve problem-solving and writing skills. Students participate as team members rather than as individuals, creating an environment for sharing knowledge and skills. More information on the contest is available on the COMAP website.

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