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Last updated: Saturday, 14-Mar-2009 19:10:25 Central Daylight Time


UW-RF Students Attend Mathematical Modeling Contest

Six students from UW RF participated in the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP) national contest for Mathematical Modeling in February. Two teams of three students each received Honorable Mention for their participation in the contest.

Team one included Bryan Kinkel, a junior mathematics major from Blaine, Minn., Susan Ficken, a junior mathematics major from Wilson, Wis., and Sarah Schmit, a junior mathematics major from Baldwin, Wis. Team two included Melissa Ludack, a senior from Ashland, Wis. with a double major in mathematics and chemistry, Lori Hoffman, a senior mathematics major from Superior, Wis., and Justin Peskar, a senior physics major from River Falls, Wis.

Mathematics professor and team advisor Kathy Tomlinson, said that the contest was an excellent opportunity for the students.

"They experience mathematical problem solving in a real-world setting, Tomlinson said. "The principles of teamwork, finding resources and communicating results are as central to the solution as the problem-solving itself. The honorable mention designation is a wonderful extra to the already impressive accomplishment our teams achieved by participating in the contest."

Every February, COMAP sponsors the contest in mathematical modeling. Students spend a weekend researching a problem in mathematical modeling, proposing an approach to a solution, using computer resources for their work, and carefully describing their solution. Teamwork, Internet and library research, computer resources and writing skills are central to the problem-solving process, Tomlinson said.

Students begin the contest by reading two contest questions on the contest Web site. They choose the problem to work on.

Both teams chose a problem from film-making in stunt coordination. The case consisted of a stunt person on a motorcycle who was to jump over an elephant and land in a pile of cardboard boxes to cushion the fall. The problem is to determine what boxes to use, how many to use, and how to stack them. Their solution must protect the stunt person from injury, and also use relatively few boxes to keep them hidden from the camera and control costs.

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