Note that if you mention to professors outside the sciences that you are judging a student modeling contest, you may want to be a little more specific.
This spring, Hood fielded a team for the SIMIODE math modeling competition, graciously hosted by our friends across town at Frederick Community College. And due to some scheduling issues, the professor who served as coach for the team couldn’t be there the whole time, so I stepped in for the afternoon portion. Even though mathematical modeling with differential equations is about as far out of my wheelhouse as you can get, it was a really fun day, and I got to see some really creative solutions to some challenging problems.
The competition begins a week before, when teams are presented with their choice of three situations to model. The two popular choices in our session were one on modeling high school group dynamics, and another on designing a chute in a recycling plant that would separate paper and cardboard from the rest of the recycling stream. They spend a week coming up with an appropriate model for their chosen scenario, writing an Executive Summary, and creating a ten minute presentation. On the day of the competition, the students submit their summaries for judging. Also, to keep it interesting, the students are presented with a slight twist to their problem, and given a few hours to incorporate that twist into their model.
After a lunch break, the students compete in a short Math Bowl, give their presentations, and the judges assign honors based on the summaries and the presentations. It was an intense day for the students, but they all seemed to enjoy the process, and got valuable experience about how design and communicate models of real world situations. And while the students are busy, the accompanying faculty can participate in some professional development centered around teaching modeling.
Our students didn’t take the highest honors, but they got some valuable experience right before graduation. And all the faculty members involved enjoyed coaching their teams and watching all the presentations. All solutions and presentations are available on the SIMIODE website.
The next competition is coming up this fall, from October 19th to October 27th. Many schools have already volunteered to be host sites, and if you don’t see one near you it’s not too late to become a host. SIMIODE provides all the materials for the professional development and the student activities, so all you need to provide are space, lunch, wifi, and some facilitation.