A global pandemic did not stop a group of High Technology High School students from coming together to participate in an international math competition.
A combination of math smarts and creative thinking has added up to a top spot for the team, whose work was selected as one of the best solutions to the problem of how to make internet access available to everyone, according to a press release.
The students – Adithya Balachandran, Lasya Balachandran, David Chang, Alexander Postovskiy and Hazem Zaky of Lincroft-based High Technology High School – advanced to the finals in MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, a competition that drew more than 2,400 11th- and 12th-graders in the United States and sixth form students in the United Kingdom this year, according to the press release.
The team, whose work underwent intense scrutiny by judges in the first two rounds of assessment, has one last hurdle on April 26 when they present their findings virtually to a panel of professional mathematicians for final validation.
Using mathematical modeling, students had 14 consecutive hours in late February and early March to come up with a solution to a real-world issue: defeating the digital divide to make internet accessible to all, according to the press release.
The M3 Challenge problem asked teams to create a model to predict what internet connectivity will cost over the next decade, how minimum required bandwidth should be determined, and an optimal way to distribute cellular nodes in a region to maximize access. A total of 535 teams submitted papers detailing their recommendations.
Now in its 16th year, M3 Challenge is a program of Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and is sponsored by MathWorks. It spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and motivates students to consider further education and careers in applied math, computational and data sciences, and technical computing. Winning teams will be awarded a share of $125,000 in scholarships, with the champion team receiving $22,500 in 2021, according to the press release.
In addition to High Technology High School, the five other finalist teams hail from high schools in Johns Creek, Ga.; Lincolnshire, Ill. (two teams); Philadelphia, Pa.; and Livingston, N.J.
Team member Adithya Balachandran found M3 Challenge to be unique among other math competitions, and fun, too.
“M3 Challenge provides a wonderful opportunity to work as a team to formulate and apply mathematical models in intractable real-world situations.
“Through this opportunity, we were able to experience the power of analytical thinking and mathematical problem solving to gain insights that help address a wide range of complex questions.
“The rewarding 14-hour experience also showed us how we could apply mathematical modeling to predict the effectiveness of solutions to our most pressing global challenges,” the student said.
For the second year running, all presentations and judging are taking place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the press release.