Student Team Earns Top Honor at Modeling Challenge

Florida Tech undergraduate students Alexander Bugielski, Miles Pophal and Anthony Domingo Garcia Romano earned the top award at the 2021 SIMIODE Challenge Using Differential Equations Modeling VI (SCUDEM VI).

The team, coached by Anthony Stefan, a graduate student in applied mathematics, received the “Outstanding” distinction for its entry, the top award level.   

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 develop a model over a three-week period using differential or difference equations. The three-member teams each produce a 10-minute video laying out their model, and judges then evaluate and score the video, providing valuable feedback.

Florida Tech team members, all of whom are majoring in applied mathematics with minors in computer science, chose the problem from social sciences/humanities titled, “Submitted a Tweet, Now What.” The situation divided people into at least two groups of similar viewpoints, and the team’s goal was to mathematically model how content warnings or moderation influenced group population. Using a weighted graph, they developed a stochastic (or randomly determined) differential equation that quantifies how social factors and moderation strategies on social media can change an individual’s viewpoint and their immediate social circle over time. (Here is their video.)

“I am honored to have coached these students and am proud of their outstanding results,” Stefan said.

The competition drew 317 students from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, Spain, United States and Vietnam.

SCUDEM is administered by SIMIODE, a non-profit Community of Practice focused on a modeling first approach to teaching differential equations. For winning the top distinction, the Florida Tech team was invited to the 2022 SIMIODE Expo and to mathematical sciences’ graduate student seminar, where they gave a presentation of their model and discussed their participation in the competition. Additionally, the Florida Tech team is motivated to extend their results with their coach by including more parameters and simulations for optimizing moderation strategies and performing further analysis on the population migration.

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