High school students experience Applied Math in Action

High school students experience Applied Math in Action

On November 4, 2015, the department invited for the second time high school students of the Schuler Scholar Program to experience Applied Math in Action, organized by Alvin Bayliss and Hermann Riecke.

The Schuler Scholar Program is designed to support and enrich the learning experience for highly motivated, underserved high school students from local area high schools. One focus of the Schuler Scholar program is to support students in STEM subjects, in particular math. The Schuler Scholars attending the outreach program were either AP calculus or pre-calculus students and the program was designed to supplement their classroom math education by describing applications of mathematics to real-world situations. Approximately 25 Schuler Scholars from several local high schools attended, accompanied by Kip Gasper, STEM Program Manager, and AmeriCorps Scholar Coaches.

After a welcome by Wesley Burghardt, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Engineering, who described vividly how math impacts engineering, five Applied Math graduate students described their research work in a manner accessible to the high school students. Sara Clifton used the example of deer antler sizes to show how math can be used to model fitness optimization in evolution; Eric Autrey and Karna Gowda explained the process of mathematical modeling using their work on population dynamics and on the formation of vegetation patterns in semi-arid climates, respectively; Kaitlin Hill showed how she uses math to gain insight into the dynamics of Arctic sea ice melting in response to a warming climate; and Britta Schneiders showed how mathematical models can help to understand grid cells, which are part of the navigation system in the brain. The talks caught the interest of the high school students and elicited spirited conversations between the Scholars and the presenters. This gave the Scholars an impression of aspects of math that they generally do not encounter in math classes, where math is presented without, or with just a small number of, applications. Two weeks later the team took their presentations off-campus to Schuler Scholars at Crane High School in Chicago.