by Bria Isaacson, News Editor
Asbury University students competed in the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications’ math modeling contest from Jan. 19 to 23. This is the 30th year that Asbury has participated.
This year, Asbury had four teams. Junior Debbie Burgess and sophomores Dakota Owens and Eric Brown created models for healthy growth rates in order to establish sustainable cities, while juniors Will Turner and Seth Heinss and sophomore Nick Kulaga generated equations and models to create shorter TSA lines.
The last two teams consisted of senior Kristyn Roller, freshmen Meg Hull and Nick Jenkinson on one team, and freshmen Tyler Thompson, Micaiah Li and Hayley Sledge on the second. Freshmen Elijah Morgan, Beckah Habeger, Bryce Forry and Joshua Turnquest were research assistants.
Although many students view a weekend full of math problems as torture, these particular students looked forward to it because they knew it would be fun and educational.
Burgess said, “The best part of being presented with a problem is learning as you solve it and developing new skills.”
“It’s encouraging to see how the classes I’m in have helped me [solve problems],” Heinss said. “I can clearly see the benefit of the classes I’m taking at Asbury.”
Other advantages of this contest include gaining experience applying research, solving real-world problems, growing closer to friends, and, according to Turner, “snackage,” as people often bring food.
Mathematics professor David Coulliette said, “We have alumni consistently tell us that this has prepared them the best for their careers. Working with others, writing, building a case for your solution, arguing with others—this is a microcosm for their careers.”
For Coulliette, the best take-away for students is the “confidence to attack new problems.”
He attributes the success of alumni to math modeling, which he believes has been a significant contributor to the department’s 100 percent acceptance rate for students applying for graduate school.
He also attributes the math department’s tight-knit community to the competition.
This has not always been the case, though. Kenneth Rietz, a former math professor at Asbury, formed the first Asbury modeling team in 1987 as a response to students’ question “Where will I ever see this again?” according to Rietz. He ran the teams, then restricted to two, by himself.
Coulliette came to Asbury in 2000, and together the two of them expanded the contest on campus by adding more teams, promoting the competition campus wide and raising department support for the teams.
Coulliette estimates that anywhere from 175-200 students have participated on Asbury teams since then.
About ten of these alumni returned to campus for the 30th anniversary last week. As part of the celebrations, Professor Duk Lee presented a math and music seminar, former math modeler Corey Winton spoke in chapel on Jan. 20, Professor Cheryll Crowe taught students the game of set and Professor Towanna Roller hosted a mini-modeling event.
Owens attended the math and music seminar, and Turner attended the game of sets. Both were pleased to see that many students attended—about 30 in each activity—and that many students were from other departments around campus.
These events, as well as the anniversary celebration, reminded students of the impact of the math modeling competition.
“It’s cool to be part of something so big,” Owens said. “I can see all the t-shirts in the hall from past years, and I think it’s cool that I’ll get to be on the wall.”
Ultimately, the 30th anniversary celebration was a way to look towards future careers of the math modelers, while celebrating the past thirty years.
“I want to teach one day and what I’ve learned can help me solve life problems in school. I can approach problems with students like math modeling problems: break [the problems] apart and find the best solution for the student,” Heinss said. “I am honored to be part of [math modeling], because I know that for thirty years, people have done what I’m doing, and I can carry on the legacy.”