Lincoln-Way West students excel in 14-hour MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

From March 3 to March 4, 2018, ten Lincoln-Way West seniors competed in the annual MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3C). The M3C is a national competition for high school juniors and seniors and is sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Two teams of five students entered the competition in an effort to win the $100,000 scholarship. This year, 912 teams from around the country participated in the M3C competition.

When groups were assembled and ready, they logged in to the M3C website and downloaded the scenario. They were given the problem stems, some research that had been started for them and a few other helpful pieces of information. Each group had 14 hours from the time the scenario was downloaded to research the problems, develop solutions based on mathematical modeling and write a report that offered a solution to the problems.

This year’s topic was food waste; the topic was broken into three tasks. The first task asked students to research whether wasted food could be used to support the food-insecure population in a large state. The second task required mathematical modeling and computations to predict how much food is typically wasted in different kinds of families (single parent, family of four, retired couple, etc.). The final task asked the students to think locally. The students had to consider their high school, their community or a city near them and develop a way to reduce food waste in their chosen area.

One team of Lincoln-Way West students (code name: SLACK) was comprised of Sara Swanberg, Luke James, Andrew Hunsaker, Connor Kettelson and Kevin Beallis, while the other team of Lincoln-Way West students (code name: Team Bobby) was comprised of Bobby Valiska, Nick Ruskowsky, Joe Meskin, John Stagner and Vincent Abella. Both teams were supervised by Lincoln-Way West mathematics teacher Mr. Tim Barry. Team Bobby, who worked from 10 a.m. – 12 a.m., focused their final task on the amount of food wasted in the city of Chicago; Team SLACK, who worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., focused their final task on the amount of food wasted in large high schools like Lincoln-Way West.

“I really didn’t know what to expect when the students signed up,” says Barry. “We had never done anything like this before. In the month leading up to the event, the excitement was palpable.”

A panel of judges looked at all entries from all 912 teams and decided that the entry from Team SLACK was strong enough to advance to the second round of judging. Only 185 teams in the nation made it to the second round of judging, which placed Team SLACK in the top 20% nationally. Unfortunately, during the second round of judging, Team SLACK was not selected to advance to the final six teams.

“The students spent hours looking at previous problems in preparation for this year’s contest and I am so proud of the results,” says Barry. “Both teams tried something new and outside their comfort zone, and they got a taste of what applied math looks like in the real world. It was a great experience!”