HSU Students Earn Meritorious Winner Awards at Math Modeling Competition

The results are official. Two HSU Environmental Resources Engineering teams have earned a Meritorious Winner award for their entries in the 2010 Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP) Mathematical Modeling Contest.

The contest ran from Feb. 18 to Feb. 22, with teams competing from U.S. and foreign universities. Each team prepared a report detailing their solution to one of three possible modeling problems.

The team consisting of Cailan Halliday, Adam Howell, and Jake Woodbury competed against 2,253 teams. Their report addressed the problem of providing a local police agency with a method to aid in their investigations of serial criminals. The approach they developed was required to make use of at least two different schemes to generate a geographical profile of the serial crimes and provide a useful predictive tool for law enforcement officers. Their entry received the Meritorious Winner Award, scoring in the top 20 percent category, with only 21 teams scoring in a higher category.

"It's invigorating and fun. It's a challenge," Halliday says. "It's a different experience than what you get out of the classroom." This is the second time he has competed in this event.

The team consisting of Claudine Custodio, Jason McClelland, and Brett Vivyan chose a different problem, and competed against 355 teams. Their report addressed the complex issues stemming from the presence and accumulation of debris in the Pacific Ocean (“The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch”). They were required to develop a model that could be used by researchers and government policy makers to understand the severity, range and potential global impact of the situation. Their entry received the Meritorious Winner Award, scoring in the top 15 percent category with only 10 teams receiving a higher score.

"We chose to use an endangered species as an identifier to track the impact of the pollution," Vivyan says.

He and his team spent 12 hours a day working on their report during the competition. Cusdtodio says the key to success in such stressful situations is "to always keep a cool-head and to be able to see alternatives and trust in your group member's abilities."

The students’ work placed HSU in the same category with such prestigious colleges as MIT. "It's a pretty good reflection about how faculty here prepares you for real world problems," Howell says.

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