Clarkson STEM Ed Faculty and Student Co-Create Problem for Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge

Dr. Mahesh Banavar, and other faculty of Clarkson’s Institute for STEM Education, collaborated to develop a challenge problem for an international math competition in March 2021 involving thousands of high school students.

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge (M3C) is an annual competition for high school juniors and seniors. Every year, students work in teams of five on an open-ended real world problem, leveraging creative mathematical modeling to propose solutions- in only 14 hours. This year’s problem addressed the need for equitable access to high speed internet, an issue brought into the spotlight during the pandemic. 

Dr. Banavar, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering provided his expertise in digital and wireless communication to the problem development committee, which includes STEM Ed’s Ben Galluzzo and Katie Kavanagh, as well as Dr. Karen Bliss of Virginia Military Institute and Dr. Chris Musco of NYU. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for Clarkson to reach people across the world with our expertise and inspirational outreach,” said Katie Kavanagh, Director of STEM Ed.

In February, 535 teams consisting of 2400 students from across the United States and the United Kingdom tackled the problem of bridging the digital divide. The problem had three prompts: What will connectivity cost over the next decade? How should minimum required bandwidth be predicted–particularly for households with different needs? What is the optimal way to distribute cellular nodes in a region to maximize access? 

Clarkson senior Isabella Grasso helped to compile data sets for each prompt, to give student teams a running start, so they would not need to spend hours data-diving before getting into model development. Winning teams get college scholarships totally $125,000. For more information, see

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