Thursday, November 11, 2010

Harvard-MIT Online Tournament at Emma Willard 11/7/10

Congratulations to the brave group of Albany Area Math Circle students who spent five hours last Sunday afternoon working on an "Extreme Math" challenge--the Harvard-MIT Online November Tournament. Though most of the students were new to this kind of intense mathematical experience, they rose to the challenge with great enthusiasm and camaraderie. We had three composite teams bringing together students from Doane Stuart, Emma Willard, Guilderland High School, and Niskayuna High School.

To honor our region's grand traditions of mathematical and scientific contributions, our three teams were named after three historic scientists from our area: Charles Steinmetz, Katherine Blodgett, and Frank Benford. Charles Steinmetz, the mathematical wizard of Schenectady was a mathematician and electrical engineer who started the GE Research Laboratories, served as President of the Schenectady School Board, and taught at Union College. It was said that he figured out a way to turn imaginary numbers into electricity. Katherine Blodgett was a Schenectady native who was the first woman ever to get a PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge, and who later worked at GE where she invented a molecular process to create the world's first 100% invisible glass. Frank Benford was an electrical engineer and physicist now best known for his discovery of Benford's law, an unexpected but beautifully surprising logarithmic statistical pattern that can be used to detect financial frauds and other fabrications. (The story behind his discovery of the pattern is delightfully serendipitous: while working at the GE Research Laboratories in Schenectady, he noticed that the pages of the logarithmic tables corresponding to numbers with a leading digit of 1 or 2 were much dirtier than the pages for numbers beginning with 8 or 9, which suggested to him that numbers beginning with 1 or 2 might occur much more frequently in real world data than numbers beginning with 8 or 9.)

The students demonstrated remarkable concentration and perseverence throughout the long hours of the multi-round mathematical contest--I believe that Steinmetz, Blodgett, and Benford would be very proud of the strong and persistent efforts of the students on their namesake teams.

Students on Team Steinmetz (Blue) were: Aniket Tolpadi, Elizabeth Parizh, George Gelashvili, Peggy Hsu, Sherry He, and Yvonne Yen. Students on Team Blodgett (Red) were: Candice Chiu, Jamie Park, Justina Liu, Luxi Peng, and Sunny Yan. Students on Team Benford (Green) were: Chelsea Wu, Claire Feng, Eric Dammerman, Isaac Malsky, and Shuang Jin.

Team High Scorers:

General Round:
Elizabeth Parizh
(Steinmetz Blue)
Candice Chiu (Blodgett Red)
Chelsea Wu (Benford Green)

Theme Round:
Sherry He (Steinmetz Blue)
Justina Liu (Blodgett Red)
Isaac Malsky (Benford Green)

High scorers of the meet
(based on combined total on general and theme rounds):
Sherry He (first place)
Chelsea Wu (second place)
Elizabeth Parizh (third place)
Honorable Mentions: Aniket Tolpadi, Justina Liu, Luxi Peng

Team Round Local Winner: Blodgett (Red)
GUTS Round Local Winner: Blodgett (Red)

Whole is More than the Sum of the Parts Award:
Benford (Green)

Spirit of the Meet Award: Peggy Hsu
for her awesome enthusiasm and encouragement to our many first-time participants

Many thanks to Emma Willard School for agreeing to host this very enjoyable opportunity for our newer students to really immerse themselves in a lengthy and challenging mathematical experience!

Special thanks to Emma Willard math department head Sunshine Greene for working with us to make all the advance arrangements, as well as to Emma Willard teachers Judy Price, Carmel Schettino, Meredith Legg, and Angela Richard for all their help running the event.

Thanks as well to Emma Willard Practicum Coordinator Anne Mossop for all she has done to support Emma Willard students in making connections with our math circle on Friday evenings! Emma Willard students been a tremendous and growing addition to our math circle in recent years--and we are delighted to have their talents and enthusiasm among us.

Special recognition is due to Emma Willard senior veteran Ashley Cho for all her leadership and encouragement of Emma Willard students, as well as her help in getting all the contestants to the right place at the outset of our contest.

Finally, a shout-out to Beth Schaffer, former Captain of Albany Area Math Circle, now an MIT senior. Beth launched new initiatives--the November tournament and the on-line version of the November and February tournaments--during her tenure as HMMT tournament co-director for the past two years. Both these innovations reflect her concern for outreach and inclusion.

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