Welcome to Somerville Mathematics

Welcome to Somerville Mathematics, a blog devoted to exciting mathematical things happening in Somerville MA. I am the founder of The Somerville Mathematics Fund, www.Somervillemathematicsfund.org
The Math Fund was chartered to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville. I hope you will check out my TEDxSomerville talk on the Somerville Math Fund,
I find that there are many other interesting things happening mathematically in Somerville and I hope on this blog to have others share what they are doing. So please contact me at mathfund@gmail.com if you would like to contribute an article.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

9th Annual Scrapheap Showdown-- So Many Marbles, So little Time!

On October 20, 9 teams of 3 high school students each from Somerville gathered in Gantcher Gym at Tufts University to compete in the ninth annual Scrapheap Showdown.  Along with the usual interesting “junk” in the center of the room when the students walked in, there were many pieces of paper, some foam core, lots of string and tape.  

The students were given their challenge: to design and build a Marble maze which would go between the far corners of two side-by-side banquet tables at a rigidly held distance of two feet apart. The challenge was a cross between a marble maze and a Rube Goldberg machine.  

The point system gave credit for creativity of designing obstacles and tricks for their marbles’ pathways.  The teams worked intensely, building, testing and adjusting their mazes.  

While everyone was working, the President of Tufts University, Dr.Monaco, stopped by and visited with every team and spoke to each of the contestants about their designs for the projects and their educational plans.

After 3 and 3/4 hours, the competition was held.  Each team had three times to have a marble run through their maze/Rube Goldberg machine.

Each of the nine mazes was interesting and sported differences in design.  We saw marbles that jumped the tables on what looked like ski runs or shot out a track and were caught on the other table, went through loop-the-loops, flew through a hoop, zig-zagged back and forth, rode a “cup” elevator up or down, or triggered a mechanism that dropped down, raised up or in some way set off another marble.    Some rang bells or started another marble continuing down the track.  The students' mazes competed against each other.

The team with the highest overall score, was “Back to Basics” (Elliot Rippe, Arjun Singh, Daniel Portillo).  

Second place was the “Swerve” (Caterina MacDonald, Melissa Baptista, Rachel Berry).  

Third place was “Mr. Scrima” (Anthony Scrima, R J Bingham, John Mulcahey).  

Fourth place was “Junk Punks” (Kelly Cachimuel, Ben Stevens).

The other teams that competed were "BKL," "It's About the Journey,"  "Celo,"  "The B-Team," and "MC^2"

The teams could choose their prize in the order they finished.    The prizes donated were: three $100 gift cards (donated by Monica Fernandes, Zbigniew Nitecki, Adam Foster & Susan Weiss), four Red Sox tickets (donated by Sam Voolich), three $50 RedBones BBQ gift cards, four passes Museum of Fine Arts and four passes to the Children’s Museum (donated by PriceWaterHouse).  
This event was for both fundraising and an intellectual challenge--all funds raised go towards a Somerville Mathematics Fund scholarship for an outstanding Somerville mathematics student.  Fundraiser Ben Stevens won a Newbury Comics gift card donated by the Saraf Nawar.  All competitors and volunteers went home with Scrapheap Showdown tee-shirts donated by Gerald and Debra Bickoff.  

Designers & refiners of the challenge were: Chase Duclos-Orsello, Adam Foster, Monica Fernandes, Richard Graf, Jay Landers, Saraf Nawar, Zbigniew Nitecki, Erica Voolich, Michael Voolich, Susan Weiss.  DSG Communications donated the paper.  Cathy Cannan and Michael Morgan, teachers at Somerville High School, recruited student teams.  Michael Voolich designed the T-shirts.  

Sponsors of the event included Winter Hill Bank, RedBones BBQ , CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, the Bickoff family, Jay & Jasper, and our wonderful host, Tufts University.  Various members of the Board worked on all aspects of organizing the event and worked to make it a success along with community volunteers. 

The Somerville Times and The Somerville Journal covered the event both online and in their published versions.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund is an affiliate of Dollars for Scholars.  They were chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville.  In January, they will be looking for teacher grant applications; and in April, they will be looking for scholarship applications.   For more information or to volunteer or to make a donation, call 617-666-0666, e-mail mathfund@gmail.com, or go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org.

©2013 Erica Dakin Voolich