Student Team Earns Top Award at Modeling Challenge

A team of Florida Tech undergraduate students Emily Happy, Emma Sandidge and Vincent Andrews earned the top award for at the 2022 SIMIODE Challenge Using Differential Equations Modeling VII (SCUDEM VII).

Coached by Anthony Stefan, a graduate student in applied mathematics at Florida Tech, the team received the “Outstanding” distinction – the top award level – for their entry. Happy and Sandidge are majoring in applied mathematics and Andrews is majoring in both astronomy and astrophysics. 

SCUDEM is a student group modeling challenge where teams choose one of the “challenge problems” provided in the areas of physics/engineering, chemistry/life sciences or social sciences/humanities and then develop a model over a three-week period using differential or difference equations. The three-member teams each produce a 10-minute video presenting their results. Then judges evaluate and score the video submissions, while also providing valuable feedback.

The Florida Tech students chose a challenge from physics/engineering by modeling Problem B titled, “The Mechanics of Suction Feeding.” Their goal was to develop a model to mimic jaw movement of Actinopterygian fish to pull water and prey into its mouth for feeding. The team used simple harmonic motion as their mathematical model with analysis on the damping coefficient to estimate the minimum time it takes for the mouth to open and close and to further explore effectiveness and range over time of this feeding technique. Here is their video.

“This team produced a wonderful mathematical model for a problem they knew nothing about and never gave up. It has been an honor to coach them,” Stefan said. “I hope they continue to extend their results for more presentations and consider a submission to an undergraduate mathematics journal.”

The competition consisted of 366 students and 56 coaches from around the world, with more than 45 countries represented.

SCUDEM is administered by SIMIODE, a non-profit Community of Practice focused on a modeling-first approach to teaching differential equations, including offering opportunities and experiences outside of the classroom. For winning the top distinction in last year’s challenge, the Florida Tech team was invited to the 2023 SIMIODE Expo where they gave a presentation of their model and discussed their participation in the competition.

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