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SURF Festival

Students and teachers navigate through the 140 presentations of Carroll College's annual Student Undergraduate Research Festival.

Carroll College's annual Student Undergraduate Research Festival this week celebrated the variety of undergraduate research that takes place throughout the year.

Among these students were the Carroll math team, which placed within the top 7% in the worldwide Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications competition. 

Senior Terry Cox, alongside sophomores Shirley Davidson and Sabrina Crooks, tackled an interdisciplinary contest in modeling, which is designed to develop and advance interdisciplinary problem-solving skills as well as competence in written communication. 

The Carroll team found itself near the top of 25,370 teams when winners were announced Thursday. It was one of five teams from Carroll competing. 

Teams are given a choice of six different questions to tackle. Each has 96 hours to choose a problem and submit a research paper with their solution.

Cox said it took the team around six hours to choose its question: How to plan for an efficient emergency evacuation of the Louvre museum. He has competed for the past three years and has placed in the top 10% each time. This was his highest placement so far. He attributed it to understanding the outline of what the contest demanded.

"Sabrina wanted to look at all our options," Davidson said. "But Terry was obsessed with solving this particular problem so he eventually sold us on it."

MCM students

Carroll College students Sabrina Crooks (left), Shirley Davidson and Terry Cox present their research on how to effectively and efficiently evacuate the Louvre museum when 15,000 people are in it. 

Crooks added that after spending time looking at all of the problems, their best idea was how they might solve the Louvre evacuation. However, there was a fail-safe in place to ditch the question if they weren't making progress. 

The group used data about the amount of time it takes a crowd to traverse stairs and the average walking speed within a crowd to help formulate its plan. The students used a 15,000 patron peak at the Louvre as the baseline and accounted for where most people might be in the museum at any given time based on bluetooth data the museum collected a few years prior. 

They based much of their planning around where the Mona Lisa was located, as the painting usually has the largest amount of foot traffic of any piece in the Louvre. They ran simulations taking into account a number of factors and using the shortest paths possible. This gave them a 43-minute evacuation time. Bottlenecks around the Mona Lisa were the main issue.

The students worked some mathematical magic, diverting people throughout the museum away from the Mona Lisa, and eventually halved the time to 20 minutes. 

The result was a 20-page paper they submitted during the last 10 minutes. 

"Typically I think getting sleep is more important than a project," Cox said. "But we pulled an all-nighter for the last night. It was nice to see all our hard work pay off." 

Davidson agreed and said it was motivating to see their mathematics applied to a situation with real-world implications. 

"This year, there were over 140 posters and presentations given by our students ranging from an analysis of plasticizers in popular consumer products to the effects of animal-assisted interventions on adults with dementia," said Sarah Lawlor, Carroll's director of public relations. "Classes are canceled for the day to give students and faculty the opportunity to attend the presentations and truly appreciate and celebrate the academic accomplishments of our students."

SURF week ends Friday with the the official inauguration of Carroll College president John Cech. Anyone who would like to watch the Cech inauguration, but cannot attend in person can view it on Carroll's live stream https://www.carroll.edu/office-president/presidential-inauguration

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