On Feb. 17, Albion College students competed in the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications’ (COMAP) Mathematical Contest in Modeling and the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (MCM/ICM), an international mathematics competition with over 11,000 institutions represented across the world.
Nine students, divided into three teams of three, represented Albion College in the competition. The contest period lasted 100 hours with problems going live at 5 p.m. on Feb. 17.
From there, students picked one out of six problems to solve, centered on real-world topics such as water and hydroelectric power sharing, market trading, asteroid mining and carbon sequestration. Afterwards, the teams had until 8 p.m. on Feb. 21 to submit a solution paper that highlighted their answers.
Darren Mason, professor of mathematics and computer science, was one of the advisors that supported students competing in the MCM/IMC. Mason believes that the contest was a great opportunity for students to work with other students that have different backgrounds and interests and to gain soft and hard skills.
“I know students who’ve gotten jobs just by talking about their experience in the competition,” said Mason. “It came up as something unusual to do in college, the person that they talked to found the topic very interesting and the next thing you knew, a big part of them getting the job was their story of how they tackled this particular problem.”
The competition is intensive at a global scale. According to Mason, out of over 11,000 teams, 17 teams won first place for their respective problems in 2021. 15 winners were from Chinese institutions and two were from American institutions.
“It’s a highly competitive competition,” said Mason. “Two-thirds of the teams that compete get the lowest score that isn’t considered cheating.”
Karina Muñoz, Dallas sophomore, competed in the ICM portion of the competition, focusing on the research portions for the team. The competition was not at all what Muñoz expected it to be.
“I had absolutely no idea what (the competition) was nor did I know what I was getting myself into,” said Muñoz. “I thought it was going to be like the DISD pentathlon or something. I didn’t know much coming in but I’m glad I joined overall.”
Muñoz worked alongside Harper Lienerth, Potterville sophomore, and Jonathan Flores, Dallas sophomore, in a problem relating to forestry and carbon sequestration. Each individual member had a particular strength in writing, research and coding that allowed them to work together during the 100 hours of the competition.
Lienerth focused on the writing aspect of the competition, formatting the research, decision models and Python programming into the solution paper to answer all the questions required by the question.
“You get so indulged in the work and wanting to do it perfectly that Monday comes around and you think, ‘we ran out of time, we can’t do this extra part,’” said Lienerth. “We all are kind of different in our own sense, which was pretty nice.”
Flores was encouraged by Muñoz to join the competition. Through the coding and programming, Flores was able to create a small model of a forest to determine how much carbon dioxide a tree would receive while using random diameters and heights of a tree in order to simulate carbon sequestration.
“All you need is a function in the coding program,” said Flores. “Now that I have a better idea of what to do, I would compete again. I just need to be more prepared than this time.”
After the competition, Mason would like to explore the possibility of creating a quarter-credit course that can prepare students for the MCM/ICM competition sometime in the future.
“It’s a big commitment, 100 hours, non-stop,” said Mason. “I take no credit for how well anybody does; it was their work and their work alone, and it’s something they should be proud of.”
Results for the Mathematical Contest in Modeling and the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling are expected to be released mid-April. The teams are competing for the International COMAP Scholarship Awards, four $9,000 scholarships divided among the three team members and $1,000 for the institution that is represented, as well as other recognition awards celebrating honorable or meritable achievement.