A team of four Capital High School students were crowned co-national champions after working on a single real-life math problem for 20 hours.
The winning group was one of seven teams from Capital High School and one of 938 teams competing in the annual High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling. The winning team was one of three other schools from the United States to receive an “outstanding” designation. One team from Capital was awarded a “finalist” designation, one team earned “meritorious” and two teams won “honorable mention.” It’s the best Capital High has ever done in the competition.
The competitors had a choice between two open-ended problems and the winning team, made up of seniors Jessica Maynard, Jake Michaletz, Tommy Jergeson and Jaskrit Singh, worked on designing an aerial light show with drones at an annual festival.
The team was required to do three displays that included a Ferris wheel, a dragon and a model of the solar system. Competitors had 36 hours to solve the problem and submit a report outlining their entire thought process.
Maynard said the most challenging part was actually starting, but the team started with a sketch of each display and plotted points. They considered practical things, like how far apart the drones needed to be for safety reasons and whether it would be cost effective for a city to purchase drones for the light show.
All four students had different responsibilities, such as determining how many drones were necessary, what colors to use, evaluating costs and inputting data into programming software.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Jergeson said. “We looked at everything, and I think that’s why we placed so well.”
Although the four are taking college calculus their senior year, they said the problem required mostly geometry and other basic math they’d learned years ago. Instead, the point of the competition is to show students how math can be used in everyday life.
“It actually works in the real world,” Michaletz said.
Singh, who was on a team that placed second in the international competition last year, said the judges are looking to see that the team followed a process. They also look for a well-written paper.
Maynard, Michaletz and Jergeson said they plan to attend Montana State University next fall, but haven’t decided on majors yet. Singh said he plans to study computer science or engineering but hasn’t selected a school. Before the team graduates, they’ll compete in a five-day international competition.
Finalist team: Zack Boles, Thomas Nelson, Justin Tofflemire, Nate Turner
Meritorious team: John LaRue, Pablo Martin-Jimenez, Mariah Thomas, Trenton Wright
Honorable Mention: Lauren Helbling, Peter Lund, Bridget Powers, James Rencher
Honorable Mention: Norris Blossom, Hunter Boles, Elliott Pryor, Cody Tofflemire