Mt. Hope students experience real-world math

Twelve lucky students had the opportunity to spend a week at RWU learning how math applies to fields from cancer research to automotive design

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/1/19

On a rainy week of summer vacation, a group of enthusiastic Mt. Hope students got a taste of what's in store for them in a college level applied math curriculum. The students participated in a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Mt. Hope students experience real-world math

Twelve lucky students had the opportunity to spend a week at RWU learning how math applies to fields from cancer research to automotive design

Posted

On a rainy week of summer vacation, a group of enthusiastic Mt. Hope students got a taste of what's in store for them in a college level applied math curriculum. The students participated in a workshop at Roger Williams University called “Mathematical Biology, Engineering and Applied Statistics,” a 40-hour intensive.

The workshop was funded by a civic grant from RWU’s Fund for Civic Activities, part of the university’s PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program. The grants are awarded by the Town of Bristol / Roger Williams University Cooperative Committee. Each year the committee awards $25,000 in grants to local nonprofits and organizations that enhance the civic experience of Bristol residents. Recipients have included the Community String Project, the Bristol Elks Lodge to support the East Bay Cares program, the East Bay Food Pantry, parent teacher organizations, and the Bristol Substance Abuse Task Force.

The students  got to interact with their peers  and with three members of the RWU Applied Math faculty, Drs. Yajni Warnapala, Edward Dougherty, and Hasala Gallolu Kankanamalage, on a one-to-one basis.

The program was designed to inspire Mt. Hope High School students to consider STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers and major in Applied Mathematics or other STEM-related fields in college. They received one college credit for completion of the program.

The three modules of the workshop were Mathematical Biology Modeling, Mathematical Engineering Modeling and Applied Statistical Modeling. If you think that sounds dry, think again — taught through hands-on lessons, it’s not about learning theory, but about learning how to apply math to real issues. The faculty got the students interacting with math in a fun way and on real world issues that the faculty are currently researching. One recreated the human brain in slime and demonstrated how to use medical research data and apply advanced software to track down how neurostimulation treatment works in the brain. Another talked about calculating transportation patterns and demonstrated traffic flow using rubber bands. The third taught them how to use statistical software to decipher data sets and had the students calculate their own data sets by counting Fruit Loops and inputting it into the software program.

Students also learned about probability and chance with a dice experiment, where each student rolled dice 20 times and graphed and calculated the results. Another professor taught how to use math modeling simulation software and programming in three biology and microbiology related areas – using the growth rate of cancer cells, understanding how neurotransmitters in the brain fire in Parkinson’s disease, and comparing the dynamics of competing populations and how they grow together.

"The objective was to make a difference for 12 students chosen from Mount Hope High School by working on hands-on modeling activities and technology and exposing them to research opportunities that exist within the Mathematics department at RWU," said Dr. Warnapala.

"It is a fact that professionals who work in STEM fields enjoy significant opportunities to engage in new discoveries and innovations on a global scale. The purpose of this workshop was to create an inspiring program in Applied Mathematical Modeling to improve access to STEM fields for students from the Bristol community."

Mt. Hope Principal Deborah DiBiase attended the final presentations at the end of the week, and liked what she saw. "To say they were impressive is an understatement. We are extremely fortunate to partner with RWU to provide such an amazing opportunity for our students," she said. "They experienced real-world learning at collegiate academic levels. We are grateful to the professors at RWU for their enthusiasm and dedication to inspire our students."

"The program was amazing," said senior Jack Charpentier of Bristol. "I personally want to become a mechanical engineer and this program has given me a sneak peak into what that field entails. I learned more than I thought I would be able to absorb in that short week."

"It’s truly amazing to see how math is everywhere even in nature and most people just don’t see it. I highly recommend anyone who has the opportunity to take part in this program to take advantage of it."

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.