Simpson Gears up for Modeling Competition


Ryan Magalhaes

Kalen Sefanick and Kenneth Noris work to find ways to make logging more sustainable.

by Ryan Magalhaes, Staff Reporter

Students and faculty are getting ready to compete in the annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM)/Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM), with great anticipation.

The contests run concurrently and are put on by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP). 

According to the COMAP website, “the contests challenge teams of up to three students to analyze, model, solve and present solution reports to an open-ended application problem.” 

Simpson has competed for years, sending one of the largest entries in the country and winning high honors most years.

“It’s a great opportunity for students,” said mathematics Professor Katherine Vance. “And a really great resume builder.” 

The competition begins on a Friday evening, when the teams select a problem. Over the weekend, students work together with Microsoft Excel and whiteboards to create a solution.

On Monday, teams will have written a paper presenting their solution and modeling strategies. The papers are then submitted for judging and ranked against other teams attempting to solve the same problem.

Simpson usually performs well, with several teams earning Meritorious Distinctions for placing in the top 15% in the world. Simpson has even fielded two finalists.

Vance said that these high honors aren’t always earned by who you’d expect.

“You don’t have to be a math person to do the competition,” she said. “Our most successful teams in the past have had someone with math interests, someone with coding skills and someone with writing skills.”

A diverse skill set on the team is useful because the questions tend to be diverse in their own way.

“There was a question a few years ago about designing a colony of dragons,” Vance said. “Almost anything you’re interested in there’s been a modeling competition question about it.”

Besides using skills and building a resume, the competition also provides an opportunity to interact with other students and have fun.

“We’re bringing back the common meals,” Vance said. “We haven’t been able to do that the last couple years.” 

Students will get pizza and ice cream provided over the course of the weekend. Vance says the emphasis is on enjoying the process, rather than winning awards.

“I did it last year, and I had a lot of fun doing it,” said Junior Kalen Stefanick, who is majoring in English and Physics.

This year, Stefanick is looking forward to seeing the new questions and hoping to experience something different.

“It’d be interesting to tackle a new kind of problem this year,” he said. 

The competition is mostly for fun and resumes, but there is a scholarship available.

The top four teams win $10,000 total with $9,000 to split between their team members and $1,000 dollars for the school.

Several teams have already signed up before the deadline of February 10th.

“You can sign up individually and we’ll help you find a team,” Vance said. “Or you can recruit your friends and be a pre-formed team.”

The competition takes place Feb. 16-20, with prep sessions to be scheduled after the signup deadline has passed.