Campus 411: Feb. 25

Does a baseball bat really have a sweet spot? Can you create a model to prove or disprove the sweet-spot effect?

Students from across campus spent 96 hours over a four-day period answering those and other questions as part of the annual Mathematical and Interdisciplinary Contests in Modeling.

In all, 57 students from Simpson College participated in the competition. Professor of Mathematics Rick Spellerberg said it was the fourth year in a row that Simpson had more entrants than any other school. Students from all different areas of study took part in the event, which Spellerberg said helps students practice teamwork and provides an opportunity to apply their knowledge in real world settings.

“For one, it gives students a chance to apply things learned in the classroom to real situations,” Spellerberg said.

Professor of Mathematics Murphy Waggoner agreed.

“It is not enough to know things, you have to be able to use them, too,” she said. “You learn a lot in all of your classes, but it is experiences like this modeling competition and other extracurricular activities that gives the students the experience of putting that knowledge to work.”

Over the 96-hour period, students research the problems and come up with solutions, which they must articulate in a 10- to 20-page paper. The contest isn’t limited to just math and science majors. Last year, Simpson students from 15 different majors participated in the competition.

“The problems come from many different fields, and the best teams in the competition are those with majors from many fields,” Waggoner said.Employers also find the competition valuable, according to Spellerberg.”We know for a fact that students who participate in these competitions go into interviews, and this is all they talk about,” he said.

Employers are looking for opportunities students have had to answer open-ended questions like these, Spellerberg explained, because that’ s what they’ll be hiring those students to do.

Students will find out the results of the competition in mid-April. Spellerberg said Simpson teams did particularly well last year, earning three meritorious honors and three honorable mentions.