High school students seek green solutions to U.S. energy independence

High school students seek green solutions to U.S. energy independence

Eleven teams in contention for scholarship prizes in Moody's Mega Math Challenge are announced

April 9, 2008

Last month, more than 1100 high school juniors and seniors from southern New Hampshire through northern Delaware competed in Moody's Mega Math Challenge 2008, submitting solution papers that attempted to solve the major global problem of U.S. energy independence, and specifically the replacement of gasoline with ethanol. After an anxious wait during an extensive judging process, the top 11 teams have emerged and the preliminary results are announced here for the first time.

The following teams are in contention for top awards ranging from $2,500 to $20,000:

High Technology High School – Team #128, Lincroft, New Jersey
Holmdel High School – Team #198, Holmdel, New Jersey
Hunterdon Central Regional High School – Team #141, Flemington, New Jersey
Manalapan High School – Team #72, Manalapan, New Jersey
Shrewsbury High School – Team #178, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
Wheeler School – Team #175, Providence, Rhode Island

These top six teams are required to make final, formal presentations at the Moody's Corporation headquarters in Manhattan. The presentations will be held on April 30, when the judges learn for the first time the identities of the students and the schools they represent. Each team will have 20 minutes to present its solution paper, often using PowerPoint presentations and other visual aids, and answer questions from the judges. The judges will then deliberate one last time and rank the teams in the final winning order. The Moody's Foundation will then award the prizes.

In addition, teams representing the following five schools will be awarded Honorable Mention team prizes in the amount of $1,000 each:

High Technology High School – Team #194, Lincroft, New Jersey
Manalapan High School – Team #73, Manalapan, New Jersey
Staples High School – Team #65, Westport, Connecticut
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North – Team #94, Plainsboro, New Jersey
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South – Team #180, Princeton Junction, New Jersey

Over 250 teams submitted viable solution papers to this year's problem, Energy Independence Meets the Law of Unintended Consequences, which called on student teams to discuss issues associated with increased corn-derived ethanol production and fuel substitution. They were required to relate these matters to dramatic and unanticipated rises in farm commodity pricing, the future of food supplies in developing nations, the effect on carbon-dioxide emissions, and the cost-effectiveness of producing ethanol fuel. Teams quantified these concerns using mathematical modeling techniques, developed and defended their models, and justified their conclusions.

"Our goal, and the goal of the competition, is to motivate high school students to think about solving real-world problems using applied mathematics," said Frances G. Laserson, President, The Moody's Foundation. "We want to increase students' interest in pursuing math-related studies and careers in college and beyond."

Judging for the Challenge was rigorous, meticulous, and impartial. There are no passing scores and numerical scores are not assigned. More than two dozen Ph.D.-level applied mathematicians came together during March and early April to judge the competition, reaching a consensus on the top 11 winning teams based on the creativity and quality of the papers' assumptions, math model, testing methodology, and summary, which was required to be written in the form of a newspaper article.

In 2008, the Challenge expanded beyond the confines of the New York City metropolitan area to include more than 60 counties from lower New Hampshire through Wilmington, Delaware, allowing more students than ever before to participate.

"SIAM and The Moody's Foundation are thrilled with the level of participation in the 2008 Challenge," said Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge Project Director. "We are very pleased with the increase in the number of competing schools this year -- about 62% more than last year. It is right in line with our high expectations relative to the contest's geographic expansion. I am confident that it will not be long before we begin to see more schools from the new expansion areas on the prize-winners list as they gain experience with the unique format of our contest."

To see the 2008 problem, visit /pdf/M3_Challenge_PROBLEM_08.pdf.

To see if your local high school participated in the M3 Challenge visit /pdf/registered_schools_08.pdf.


About the Challenge

The M3 Challenge spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool, as a viable and exciting profession, and as a vital contributor to advances in an increasingly technical society. Scholarship prizes total $65,000. The Challenge is entirely Internet-based and there are no entrance or participation fees. Each high school may enter up to two teams of three to five students each. Students choose which day they wish to work on Challenge weekend and have 14 hours to solve an open-ended, realistic, applied math-modeling problem focused on real-world issues. Teams can work from any location they choose and can use any free and publicly available resources, but they may not discuss any aspect of the problem with, or seek help from, their coach or anyone other than their teammates.

The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) awarded Moody's Corporation a 2008 Excellence Award for Moody's Mega Math Challenge, citing the company's "sophisticated giving program that encourages students to develop a passion for mathematics, economics, and finance."

About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting a variety of nonprofit education, health and human services, civic, and arts and culture programs. Established by Moody's Corporation in 2001, the Foundation's primary area of giving is secondary and higher education with a focus on mathematics, economics and finance. Further information is available at http://philanthropy.moodys.com.

Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO), an essential component of the global capital markets, provides credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to stable, transparent and integrated financial markets. Moody's Corporation is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics, encompassing Moody's non-ratings businesses. With revenues of $2.3 billion in 2007, Moody's employs approximately 3,600 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 27 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, is an international society of over 11,000 individual members. These include applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners from 85 countries in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes more than 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 www.siam.org.

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