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High Technology High Students

Team from High Technology High School Will Win a Portion of $125,000 in Scholarships in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge

Lincroft, NJ – April 5, 2021 – A global pandemic didn’t 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.

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 unique competition that drew more than 2,400 11th and 12th graders in the U.S. and sixth form students in the U.K. this year. 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. 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.

“This year's topic touches on several relevant issues we are facing as a global community,” says M3 Challenge director of judging and lead problem developer Karen Bliss, Virginia Military Institute. “One is the social justice aspect of internet access. While this has been a problem for years, the pandemic has highlighted the reality of the digital divide: those who don't have fast, reliable internet are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to access to education and the ability to work from home, among many other things.”

Since there are so many ways to access the internet (cable, fiber optic, cell phones, public Wi-Fi), it's not obvious how to best solve this problem. “We asked students to think about how needs vary from person to person and how to best get high-speed internet to rural, suburban, and urban areas. While there's no one mathematical approach that is the right way to answer these questions, we look forward to seeing how the students used mathematical modeling to reach an answer and explain how what they value shows up in their models,” Bliss says.

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.

In addition to High Technology High School, the five other finalist teams hail from high schools in Johns Creek, Georgia; Lincolnshire, Illinois (two teams); Livingston, New Jersey; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“M3 Challenge promotes awareness of current real-world problems that impact our society and the potential role that careful thought and analyses can substantially ameliorate their adverse impacts,” says coach Raymond Eng. “The student team must synthesize a mathematical model from an immense amount of research and incomplete information. This Challenge is a new experience for students where there is not a definitive answer. The real-life lesson is how to construct a logical model on the best available, incomplete information to support a conclusion/ recommendation. The team must also objectively examine the strength and weakness of their model, as well as its sensitivity in a very limited amount of time.”

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."

For the second year running, all presentations and judging are taking place virtually instead of at an all-day, in-person event in New York City due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about M3 Challenge, visit m3challenge.siam.org.

To access this year’s challenge problem, visit https://m3challenge.siam.org/practice-problems/2021-challenge-problem-defeating-digital-divide-internet-costs-needs-and-optimal.  

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