High school students model new approaches to mobility, driving technologies

High school students model new approaches to mobility, driving technologies

Participants in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge evaluate auto industry changes driven by millennials

March 1, 2016

Philadelphia, PA — Autonomous driving technology. Electrified vehicles. Mobility service provider. Many high school students don’t yet have a driver’s license let alone a clue what these futuristic-sounding transportation terms mean.  But that changed this weekend when nearly 5,000 students, competing in Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, used mathematical modeling to make recommendations about the future of the auto industry. Automakers are investing millions of dollars in developing new technologies to meet the demands of consumers, many of them millennials, who want the benefits of using a private car without the costs and responsibilities of owning one.  

During the intensive M3 Challenge weekend, approximately 1,100 teams of students from throughout the US spent 14 hours gathering and evaluating data on the rapidly-changing landscape of the automotive industry, in which automakers are transforming themselves from car builders into “mobility companies” that will provide the transportation options of the future, including self-driving cars and vehicles that run entirely on alternative fuel or renewable energy. First charged with building a mathematical model to categorize US individuals by the amount of time they spent using their car and the number of miles driven each day, M3 Challenge participants were then tasked with evaluating four emerging car-sharing business options, taking into account new technologies that are close to entering the mainstream, and predicting which option would garner the most participation in a given city.

Charles Zhang, a senior at New Albany High School in Ohio, says this year’s problem topic was phenomenal and he and his team had an amazing time tackling it. Problem developers began crafting the problem last summer. “At first I thought it was too focused on trade-offs,” says Ben Galluzzo, Shippensburg University math faculty and one of this year’s problem writers. “But then we decided to include a part about new automotive technologies, which allowed the students to investigate the possibility of a true “win-win” in the personal transportation arena. I can’t wait to see what this year’s participants discovered as they developed their solutions to this problem.”

According to Zhang, his team discovered quite a bit, noting that “after progressing through the problem and doing a ton of research, we discovered a quickly growing industry that revolutionized the standards of car rental because of its innovative business model, which not only brought convenience to the customer but also alleviated the environmental harms of the auto industry.”

Working with Galluzzo on the problem was Karen Bliss, assistant professor of applied mathematics at Virginia Military Institute, who says she is inspired by the attitudes of this younger generation. “They are so open-minded and willing to look for answers outside the box,” she explains. “They are really the driving force behind movements like car-sharing, and they are demonstrating that it can work and be beneficial, both financially and environmentally.”

While the teams’ solutions may provide insight into their own views on car-sharing and the impact of driverless and other emerging technologies on the automotive industry, interest in this topic wasn’t the reason for their 14-hour-long quest—after all, the Challenge problem remains secret until Challenge weekend. For most participants, M3 Challenge provides a fun and unique opportunity to work collaboratively on a problem they have likely never considered before. It may even ignite a future academic or career interest for some. Of course, with 90 scholarship prizes totaling $150,000 up for grabs from The Moody’s Foundation, many can’t help but be motivated by the chance to earn some cash to help with college expenses. Some of this year’s participants may even choose to leave their cars at home when they head to college, opting instead to utilize car-sharing services now that they know more about the benefits and advantages.

Organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), M3 Challenge gives high school students the opportunity to answer broad questions by applying mathematics and quantifying the related variables, and encourages them to study and pursue careers in science  and math. The Challenge is free, requiring only accessibility to the Internet.

After two rounds of judging by professional applied mathematicians over the next eight weeks, six finalist teams will be selected to present their solutions to a panel of mathematical experts at Moody’s Foundation headquarters in New York City on April 25. Approximately 90 teams will be recognized with team scholarship prizes, with the champion team receiving $20,000.

View the complete problem statement now. For more information about the Challenge, see https://m3challenge.siam.org/.


About the Sponsor
Built on the recognition that a company grows stronger by helping others, The Moody’s Foundation works to enhance its communities and the lives of its employees by providing grants and engaging in community service in local neighborhoods. The Moody’s Foundation, established in 2002 by Moody’s Corporation, partners with nonprofit organizations to support initiatives such as education in the fields of mathematics, finance, and economics, as well as workforce development, civic affairs, and arts and culture. For more information, please visitwww.philanthropy.moodys.com.

About the Organizer
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members from 85 countries are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at http://www.siam.org

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