April 13, 2010

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Two Bucknell University student teams have placed among the winners at the recent Mathematical Contest in Modeling, earning the designations of "outstanding winners" and "meritorious winners" among the 2,254 worldwide submissions.

Each team in the international competition chose to solve a problem dealing either with the "sweet spot" in baseball or in criminology.

Nine teams overall were deemed "outstanding winners" with the Bucknell team in the top five of those choosing the criminology problem.

The Bucknell team included Bryan Ward, a five-year computer science and engineering and mathematics major; Dan Cavallaro, a junior majoring in computer science and engineering; and Ryan Ward, a junior majoring in mathematics.

"This award speaks volumes about how talented these students are," said Nathan Ryan, team adviser and assistant professor of mathematics at Bucknell.

"In 96 hours they have to do background research into a problem totally unfamiliar with them, develop a mathematical model that describes the problem, implement the model on a computer and then analyze how good their model is. Then, the more-than-20-page paper that results is compared to hundreds of others and deemed to be in the top one-half of 1 percent. That's really impressive," Ryan said.

"In addition, Dan, Bryan and Ryan are going to have a version of their final paper published. This is Bryan and Ryan's third year competing and they've improved each year.

"I also think it's noteworthy that Bucknell is the smallest of the winning schools and one of two undergraduate institutions with winning teams in the competition," he said.

Another Bucknell team — Diamond Bishop, a senior majoring in computer science and engineering; Dan Medani, a senior majoring in computer science and engineering; and Rishav Chakravarti, a senior majoring in computer science — were ranked with 431 other teams as meritorious winners, placing in the top 19 percent.

The criminology problem, which the Bucknell teams chose, required the team to develop a method to aid in local police investigations of serial criminals. Teams were to make use of at least two different schemes to generate a geographical profile, to develop a technique to combine the results of the different schemes and to generate a useful prediction for law enforcement officers. The prediction had to provide some kind of estimate or guidance about possible locations of the next crime based on the time and locations of the past crime scenes. The method also needed to provide some kind of estimate about how reliable the estimate will be in a given situation.

The Mathematical Contest in Modeling, which was held this spring and decided earlier this month, is sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP), an award-winning non-profit organization whose mission is to improve mathematics education for students of all ages. Since 1980, COMAP has worked with teachers, students, and business people to create learning environments where mathematics is used to investigate and model real issues in the world.

Contact: Division of Communications