For 14 straight hours in early March, a small group of High Technology High School students came together to participate in an international online math modeling competition. A combination of math smarts and creative thinking has added up to a spot in the finals for the team, whose submission was selected as one of the best solutions to questions around the predicted growth of e-bike use and its impact on society.
The students – Michael Gao, Amanda Guan, Kevin Guan, Amanda Lin and Kevin Liu of Lincroft-based High Technology High School – make up one of the eight finalist teams in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), a unique competition that drew nearly 3,000 11th and 12th graders in the U.S. and sixth form students in the U.K. this year.
Using mathematical modeling, students had to come up with solutions to real-world questions: How many e-bikes will be sold in the next two years? Of the many factors that contribute to e-bike use and sales growth, which are most significant? For a given country or region, can we quantify the impact that e-bike use has on carbon emissions, traffic congestion, or other key factors? A total of 650 teams submitted papers detailing their recommendations. Roughly 45 percent of those submissions included technical computing to support and enhance their solutions, and those coding skills make them eligible for additional scholarship prizes.
“News feeds, magazines, and everyday discussions seem to be filled with talk of ‘the future of the automobile,” said M3 Challenge judge and lead problem developer Neil Nicholson. “In the past couple years, though, the rise in popularity of smaller electric personal transportation devices has somewhat changed the conversation. While these changes can be meaningful at the individual level, they also are shaping larger scale policy-related questions. It is really interesting to see how the modelers attacked these questions, because understanding how the past influences the future will surely provide insight into these big real-world issues.”
Now in its 18th year, M3 Challenge is a program of Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and is sponsored by MathWorks. It spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and motivates students to consider further education and careers in applied math, computational and data sciences, and technical computing. Winning teams will be awarded a share of $100,000 in scholarships, with the champion team receiving $20,000 in 2023.
In addition to High Technology High School, the other finalist teams hail from schools in Alexandria, Virginia; Berwyn, Pennsylvania; Gainesville, Florida; Houston, Texas; Lincolnshire, Illinois; London, England; and Mason, Ohio.
“M3 Challenge is a special opportunity for students to study and analyze current real-world phenomena that have wide ranging impacts on society,” said High Technology teacher-coach Raymond Eng. “E-bikes are an early-stage technology with tremendous possibilities where the many impacts are not yet fully defined or understood. The student team must synthesize a mathematical model from a select amount of data and incomplete information. M3 Challenge is a new experience for students where there is not a definitive answer. The real-life lesson is how to construct a logical model on the readily available and incomplete information to support a projection of future human behavior, a near impossible task. The team must also objectively examine the strengths and weaknesses of their model and communicate their results in a very limited amount of time. The team gets to experience what an analyst must deal with in the real world.”
Team member Kevin Guan found M3 Challenge to be a contemporary math experience that encourages ingenuity in students.
“Pure math is interesting, but it’s even more beautiful to see how the patterns in math find their way into real-life phenomena,” he said. “I think the most fascinating thing is how we build on the work of teams in the past. We modify previous strategies to fit new problems in innovative ways, and we improve on them, making each year more exciting than the year before.”
For more information about M3 Challenge, visit m3challenge.siam.org.