Roanoke College

Roanoke students use creativity, math and problem-solving skills to design optimal brownie pan

  • Roanoke students use creativity, math and problem-solving skills to design optimal brownie pan

  • 05/10/13
  • Three Roanoke College students spent a four-day weekend in February designing the perfect brownie pan. By the Monday deadline, the group had a 28-page report in hand and a unique pan design.

    This Roanoke team received high recognition in an annual problem solving competition that combines both mathematics and creativity.

    A total of 5,636 teams from 14 different countries competed in the Mathematical Competition in Modeling in February. This year's team, made up of Ed Hrinya, Jared Meadows and Kat Jansen, received the second highest ranking of Meritorious, which placed them in the top 1 percent internationally.  This is the third year that students from Roanoke have placed this high in the competition.

    "To receive Meritorious or higher ratings three years in a row is unprecedented and awesome; I am awed by the imagination and hard work that the Roanoke College teams have invested in the MCM competition," said Dr. Roland Minton, Roanoke mathematics professor and MCM team advisor. 

    Each February, teams from colleges and universities throughout the world are given four days to analyze a real-world problem, construct a model and create a report. The problems are diverse and range from designing new boarding policies for airlines to planning ideal locations for cell phone towers.

    This contest allows students to not only use their knowledge of mathematics but to put problem solving skills and creativity into practice. Some of the student ideas produced during this competition have been used to solve real-life problems.

    The challenge for this year's students was to design the optimal brownie pan. Teams used mathematical analysis to consider the problems with baking brownies in various shaped pans. Heat distribution over a square pan can allow for overcooking the corners, but a round pan is not as space effective in the oven.

    Along with mathematical formulas, the Roanoke group actually baked brownies, measured the temperatures, and compared the end products. They found that in order to fit the maximum number of pans in an oven, while still evenly baking the brownies, a hexagon-shaped pan did the trick.  

    -Published May 10, 2013