A team of engineering students tied for second place in a national competition in which teams work virtually to solve a differential equation modeling scenario.
The SIMIODE Challenge Using Differential Equations Modeling IV 2019 was a week-long challenge for teams of high school and undergraduate students. The contest was sponsored by SIMIODE, the Systemic Initiative for Modeling investigations and Opportunities with Differential Equations, a non-profit organization, funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
Differential equations are mathematical equations that are used to define the relationship between a physical quantity and their rate of change. It is used in many disciplines, including engineering, physics, economics and biology, to explain and solve real-world problems.
Jake Haney ‘20, Dominick Romano ‘20, and Alicia Romeo ‘20, coached by Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Roche de Guzman, PhD worked on differential equation models of chemical signals from male and female butterflies that influence attraction, suppression, and competition between butterflies and parasitic wasps for reproduction. Their mathematical models analyzed the stability of butterflies and wasp populations over time.
“Working on a mathematical problem that related to the real world was more challenging because of all the variables that could impact our equation,” Romeo said. “And, presenting our model to other teams not only helped me strengthen my public speaking skills but I learned a lot from hearing how other teams put together their mathematical models.”
Student teams chose one of three modeling scenarios involving differential equations and worked remotely at their home school or university, developing their mathematical approach and solutions. Other challenges required students to mathematically explain the phenomenon of hipsters in how people tend to group themselves, and the movement of objects on small microgravity environments such as asteroids.
“In addition to applying concepts learned in class, the competition gave our students the opportunity to efficiently manage time and resources to achieve their goals as a team like a well-oiled machine,” Dr. de Guzman said.
More than 600 students competed in this year’s competition.
“The SCUDEM project broadened my knowledge of how differential equations are used to solve real world problems. The experience also allowed me to improve my MATLAB skills,” Haney said. “Most of all, I enjoyed how we bonded as a group while working together.”