26th Annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling

April 13, 2010

Perhaps it has been a long time since you played "Clue," but the 26th Annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) involved crime and a possible weapon.  For the contest teams of up to three undergraduate or high school students researched, modeled, and submitted a solution to one of two modeling problems.

Problem A, physics related,  involved “The Sweet Spot” on the fat part of a baseball bat where maximum power is transferred to the ball when hit.  Why isn’t this spot at the end of the bat?  A simple explanation based on torque might seem to identify the end of the bat as the sweet spot, but this is known to be empirically incorrect.  The challenge was to develop a computer model that helps explain this empirical finding.  Also, some players believe that “corking” a bat (hollowing out a cylinder in the head of the bat and filling it with cork or rubber, then replacing a wood cap) enhances the “sweet spot” effect.  The further challenge was to augment the model to confirm or deny this effect.

The Problem B, “Criminology,” was related to psychology.  The teams were to assume that a local police agency asked for a method to aid in their investigations of serial criminals.  The approach developed needed to use at least two different schemes to generate a geographical profile.  The teams were to develop a technique to combine the results of the different schemes and to generate a useful prediction for law officers.  The prediction was 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.

Three Hampden-Sydney teams participated:
Meritorious - Team Beta:  Cameron Auker '10, Nathan Parr '10, Douglas Vermilya '11
Honorable Mention - Team Alpha:  Matthew Carrington '10, Miguel Mogollon '10, Shihao Tian '12
Successful Participant - Team Gamma:  Paul Cottrell '11, Ke Shang '13

In this year's MCM
2254 teams participated
358 US Teams (16%)
1890 Foreign Teams (84%) from Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom
9 Outstanding Winners (top 1/2%)
12 Finalists (top 1%)
431 Meritorious Winners (top 20%)
542 Honorable Mentions (top 44%)