This past January, Southwestern University computer science majors Sara Boyd ’20, Devon Fulcher ’19, and Daniel Maldonado ’19 spent five days competing in the 35th annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling, sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP). This year, 14,108 teams representing institutions from 17 countries or regions participated in the contest. The results are now in, and Southwestern’s team has received an honorable mention for their work, putting them in the top 16% of participants.

During the competition, Boyd, Fulcher, and Maldonado researched, modeled, and submitted their solution to a complex scenario. Specifically, their team was asked to “select, configure, optimally pack, geoposition, deploy, and operate a set of midsize unmanned aerial vehicles that would supplement existing relief medical supply chains on Puerto Rico.” After “identifying effective ‘DroneGo’ system configurations,” the trio were “required to plan flight paths, schedules, and supply-lift details throughout the island while conducting visual road reconnaissance and damage assessment to aid disaster-relief operations.”

COMAP’s Mathematical Contest in Modeling is distinguished among modeling competitions because it’s one of the only international contests in which students problem-solve in teams. Furthermore, the students’ submission represents COMAP’s commitment to using mathematical tools to solve real-world problems, such as planning and deploying relief missions following a natural disaster—the simulation chosen by Southwestern’s team—or determining the socioeconomic factors contributing to the current opioid epidemic. Students also have the opportunity to analyze and contemplate more fantastical simulations, such as considering the ecological ramifications of dragons existing on Earth.

“All 14,108 of the competing teams are to be congratulated for their excellent work and enthusiasm for mathematical modeling and interdisciplinary problem-solving,” says COMAP representatives. Congratulations to our SU team of mathematical modelers!