April 25, 2012 | 1:14 p.m.
By Alennah Westlund ’14
Bethel’s Math Team, composed of three students, Michael Tetzlaff, Blaine Goscha, and Jacob Smith, was recently awarded the designation of “Outstanding Winner” in this year’s COMAP Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM), making it one of the top 10 teams in the prestigious international competition. A total of 3,697 teams from 17 countries competed.
During the competition, teams of up to three students were presented with one of two open-ended modeling problems that needed to be researched, modeled, and answered. The contest questions do not have an answer key; judges are looking to see how the students choose to answer a real life problem that does not have a pre-existing solution. Team advisor Nathan Gossett, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, describes the intensity of the competition: “The MCM requires a lot out of student competitors. The topics are not known prior to the start, so students have very little time to become experts in a new topic in order to even start answering the question. They also have to be excellent in a variety of disciplines, from math and computer science to communication and writing, since they have only four days to produce a well-written and edited paper that can be 20 to 30 pages long.”
The bulk of this year’s contest was done online through the COMAP’s MCM website, where teams obtained their contest materials and downloaded the modeling problem. There were two different problems, and Bethel’s trio faced “Problem B.” This problem presented the team with the idea that river managers at the Big Long River, a popular rafting destination, were trying to determine the best way to increase the number of trips available. The team was asked to consider trips of varying durations as well as the type of raft used, ultimately answering the question: “How many more boat trips could be added to the Big Long River's rafting season?” The problem required them to advise the river managers on the development of a new schedule as well as procedures that could be used to determine the carrying capacity of the river.
The team presented their findings in an overall summary paper as well as a memo to the managers of Big Long River describing key conclusions. After evaluation, they were awarded “Outstanding Winner,” making them one of the top 10 teams of the 3,697 teams competing. In the past 12 years, this is the third time Bethel has been awarded this top honor, receiving “Outstanding Winner” designations in 2001 and 2002 as well. “Bethel's success in this contest speaks highly of both the students that choose to attend Bethel, and also the education those students receive here that helps prepare them to excel in this competition,” says Gossett. “There are thousands of teams competing from all over the world, and Bethel students consistently stack up very well against them. Students are developing skills that help them to excel in both the MCM and also after college, as they are called upon to tackle newly developing, previously unsolved problems that they encounter in their jobs, research projects, and beyond.”
Full competition results are now available. The ten solution papers deemed “Outstanding Winners” will be featured in The UMAP Journal with additional commentary from the authors and judges.