Math Team Earns High Accolades

SOCORRO, N.M. May 11, 2010 – Two teams of New Mexico Tech math and physics students recently competed in the top modeling contest last weekend, with one team earning the highest awards ever earned by Tech students.

Fred Davies, Jared Duffy and Delia Mocanu, Team #8502, earned the “Meritorious Award” for the modeling work in the three-day long Mathematical Contest in Modeling. Duffy and Mocanu are carrying double majors in physics and mathematics. Duffy also is carrying a minor in Hispanic studies. Davies is majoring in astrophysics, with a minor in math.

Fred Davies Jared Duffy Delia Mocanu

Team #8503, Laura Oliveira, Robert Rayas and Nikos Arechiga successfully completed the contest as well. Oliveira is a double major in physics and math, and has two minors in electrical engineering and Hispanic studies. Rayas is a double major in math and physics, with a minor in electrical engineering. Arechiga is an electrical engineering major, with a minor in math.

Math professor Dr. John Starrett is the team’s sponsor. He said the MCM is the most well known and prestigious modeling contest. This year, 2,254 teams from around the world entered the competition. Only 19 percent of the teams were deemed “meritorious” and 1 percent was named either “finalists” or “outstanding.”

“For math modeling, this is the big one,” Starrett said. “It’s an extremely grueling contest because the problem statement is very open-ended. To win this award tells me that they are very bright and very flexible kids who have the ability to work together.”

The annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling is hosted by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications. Each year, Consortium members devise two general math modeling problems.

Both Tech teams tackled the problem “The Sweet Spot,” which noted that every baseball hitter knows that there is a spot on the fat part of a baseball bat where maximum power is transferred to the ball when hit.

Students were asked to design a computer modeling program that would find the sweet spot. Competitors were also give two ancillary tasks: (1) developing a model that explained why baseball players believe that “corking” a bat enhances the “sweet spot” effect; and (2) predict whether the bat material – wood or aluminum – affects the sweet spot.

The contest requires students to excel at mathematics and computer programming. Successful teams also have good time management skills and teamwork, Starrett said.

The Consortium releases the problems on a Thursday, and competitors must submit their completed work the following Monday.

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By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech