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September 1, 2011
Submitted photo/Students Rachel Burton, of La Grande, and Jadon Herron, of Union, presented at the Mathematical Association of America’s annual MathFest conference Aug. 4-6 in Lexington, Ky.
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) – Early on a southern summer morning, two students from eastern Oregon recounted for an audience of their peers how an answer to a mathematical model brought them international acclaim.
Rachel Burton, of La Grande, and Jadon Herron, of Union, were in Lexington, Ky., to speak at the Mathematical Association of America’s (MAA) MathFest conference Aug. 4-6 and receive an award on behalf of a team from Eastern Oregon University.
The team’s calculations won the day for the annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Application (COMAP). The competition, held in February, spanned 96-hours and teams from colleges and universities around the world participated.
Burton, Herron and fellow EOU student Alexander Macavoy, of La Grande, took home the Outstanding Award – the highest honor of the competition. They were one of just four teams and the only from the U.S. to garner such recognition.
Their conclusion to the complex “continuous” math problem is what they shared with the group at MathFest. Professors and other students wanted to know how they determined the shape of a half-pipe snowboard course that would maximize the production of vertical air achieved by a skilled snowboarder.
“A lot of faculty were curious to know what we did,” Burton said. “We felt like ‘first-timers’ around the Ivy League schools, but it was a lot of fun being with other people who are familiar with math modeling competitions.”
The MAA presented one other school – Virginia Tech – with an award at the conference.
“I’m really glad we participated,” Herron said. “It gave us the opportunity to apply what we learned in class for the contest and our presentation.”
Burton, Herron and Macavoy each received a certificate from the MAA and EOU will display the plaque for the team award in the Science Center. Anthony Tovar, associate professor of physics, is their adviser.
“The team tackled a topic that was of interest to them, so they actually had fun working on math for four straight days…it was amazing!” Tovar said.
Their victorious participation in COMAP is also attracting attention from beyond the MAA. Princeton University and a school from China have contacted the team with requests to study their technical manuscript submission.
“EOU is immensely proud of Rachel, Jadon and Alexander,” said Sarah Witte, acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Their achievement is a testament to applied learning in EOU’s small college environment with top-notch, engaged faculty teachers and researchers.”
Burton is a senior mathematics major at EOU. Herron, a senior pre-engineering student, will be transferring to complete his degree at Oregon State. Macavoy is a junior at EOU and is currently participating in the Oregon Study Abroad program in Germany.
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