Applied Math students catch ‘vertical air’

Three University of Western Ontario undergraduate students have a world-class edge when it comes to designing snowboarding courses. And they have the top prize to prove it.

Recently, Simon Xu, Markus Sturm and Cyrus (Zhe) Chen, Department of Applied Mathematics students, comprised one of four teams given an outstanding distinction at the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications 2011 Mathematical Contest in Modeling. At the event, Western nabbed both the INFORMS and Ben Fusaro Awards.

A total of 2,775 teams worldwide, including Harvard, Brown, Princeton, MIT, York and Simon Fraser, took part in the competition.

The contest consisted of the teams considering two problems during the four-day event: 1. Design a half-pipe snowboarding course with the goal of maximizing vertical air, the highest distance above the edge of the half-pipe; 2. Tailor the shape of the half-pipe to optimize other features such as maximum twist in the air.

Professor Allan MacIsaac, who has supervised students in this contest for nine years, says Western traditionally does well. Last year, six students, in two teams of three, finished just outside the Top 20 of 2,254 teams. However, the only other Western victory was more than 20 years ago.