On Friday, February 25, two Haverford teams consisting of five Fifth Formers and five Sixth Formers participated in the MathWorks Modeling Challenge. Arranged by math teachers Mr. Jeremy Fus and Mr. Nathan Bridge, the two teams spent fourteen hours in secluded rooms producing a paper in response to three questions under this year’s challenge theme: virtual jobs.
Last year, Haverford’s teams also partook in the competition but unfortunately did not qualify for the semifinals. Mr. Fus believes this year’s teams may achieve more promising results.
“Aside from math club meetings, many Sixth Formers signed up for advanced modeling electives this year, so I felt that they’ve had much more relevant preparations this time,” Mr. Fus said.
Team 1, composed of Sixth Form mathematicians Julius Huang, Jeffrey Yang, Adamya Aggarwal, Elijah Lee, and Daniel Hou, eye this year’s semifinal.
“The challenge is composed of three questions. Since the third question is built on the basis of the first two questions, we chose not to split the work,” Sixth Former Julius Huang said. “Within the context of each question, we assigned tasks to team members. Daniel, Adamya, and I worked on the major theories and frameworks; Elijah did an excellent job with the coding; Jeffrey beautifully compiled and wrote the paper.”
A 2020 semifinalist for the renowned S.-T. Yau High School Science Award, Huang took the math department’s modeling course and independently studied statistics and coding for this challenge. He predicts that the team has a fair chance at qualifying for the semifinals.
“In terms of theories and frameworks, I consider our work comparable to that of the champion’s. Unfortunately, due to time allocation issues and disagreements in our approach, our data sets were not as comprehensive as they could have been,” Huang said. “While these issues may have weakened our models, the overall quality of our work should still get us to the semifinals.”
The results of the challenge are expected to be announced in late March. Sponsored by the company MathWorks, semifinalists will receive a prize of $1,000-1,500, while finalists and champions of the challenge will receive up to $20,000.
Team 2, with Fifth Formers Colin Kelly, Ethan Chan, Nathan Mirin, Megh Tank, and Jingyuan Chen, also performed well for their first attempt.
“Before the challenge, I talked with students that participated last year, and they told me a good bit about the challenge,” Fifth Former Colin Kelly said. “At first, I was a bit intimidated. So in clubs periods, we began practicing with previous challenge topics, and that’s where I built confidence.”
Although Team 2 didn’t have a particular plan before the competition, members collaborated and supported each other, achieving a satisfactory result for their first attempt at the competition.
“We didn’t know what the problem would be leading up to the competition, so we decided that whoever took a lead in a problem would end up being the primary leader for that problem,” Kelly said. “I’d say it worked out very nicely. Because we got all the problems done.”
Kelly applauded the team’s work and reflected on ways to improve next year.
Given the time constraints, I think we did pretty well, and I had fun.Ethan Chan ’23
“I think we did an incredible job for our first try and handled those fourteen hours really well. We managed the workload properly,” Kelly said. “Given more time, we would have made our arguments clearer and focused on the writing aspect to demonstrate why our method works.”
Fifth Former Ethan Chan also lauded the team’s effort.
“In the beginning, I worked with Megh to obtain statistics of particular cities in the problem. Towards the end of the fourteen hours, we just congregated and worked on all the parts together.” Chan said. “Given the time constraints, I think we did pretty well, and I had fun.”
Despite the intensity of the challenge, Kelly and Chan both enjoyed the process.
“We went and got ice cream at Hope’s Cookies after the challenge. We talked about how it went,” Kelly said. “All agreed that it was a very fun experience
The challenge will continue next year. Huang encourages all interested incoming upperclassmen to give it a try next year.
“In terms of prerequisites, the MathWorks Modeling Challenge isn’t exclusively demanding. Unlike the International Mathematical Olympiad, efforts can outweigh talents in this sort of competition,” Huang said. “If you enjoy maths and you want to apply it to real world problems, just go for it.”
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