by Erica Dakin Voolich
Previous years in October I’d be telling you about teams each of three students arriving at the gym at Tufts University for an engineering challenge on a Sunday afternoon. Well, guess what happened with Scrapheap in the pandemic? No such event was possible. But, the Somerville Math Fund’s Board would not be deterred, they decided they would hold a Game Jam instead in December, with students each working in teams of three each from their own home.
Seven teams signed up for the Somerville Math Fund Game Jam. They got “their marching orders” in a zoom meeting on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday afternoon picked up their supplies in a pizza box at the high school.
Students had from Tuesday night at 6:30 PM until Sunday at 6:30 PM to work on and upload their games. They needed to design a board or card game that could be played by 3 or more players, assuming each the players could possibly at different locations. The theme of the game was Space — any interpretation of that theme was OK. All the teams of three were creating at home, not together in person — not like the pre-COVID days of Scrapheap Showdown, with a large pile of junk, our scrapheap in the middle of a Tufts U gym floor. Each player was given a pizza box full of papers with different board designs, rules, many different sided dice, playing cards and some random unrelated items that they needed to figure out how to use at least one of them in the game. These were used in interesting ways. In one game the stress ball became the sun on the game board of the planets, in another there was an animal building challenge with another random object as the board game progressed.
The Board was impressed by the creativity of the games the students came up with. Lots of detail and thought went in to the rules and design. Creative choice of how to use the required theme of “space.” Some planetary or astroid travel or building for survival or defense, some different non-Euclidean geometric spaces, even some aliens to escape. Some games were for younger students some assumed high school math.
After the games were submitted and uploaded to the Somerville Math Fund Classroom, the Board members needed to play the games and the teams of contestants were each given two games to play and evaluate with the same rubric the Board was using. The rubric was on a scale of 16 (up to 4 points in each of 4 categories) and each game was judged by students as well as Board members and the final score was the average of the students’ scores with the average of the Board members’ scores.
The first place team was “No Name Given” (Marie Lessard-Brandt, Isra Khan, Rio Hunter Black) with their game “Belt Hop,” 13.2 points. The second place team was “Senioritis” (Justin Millette, Henry Ayanna, Owen Chiu) with their game “Cosmic Civilization,” 13 points.
The third place team was “Buddies” ( Brayden Goldstein-Gelb, AJ Feldman, Kevin Wen), with their game “Hold Your Horses,” 12.3 points. The fourth place team was “We Don’t Know” (Nikhilesh Rattan, Samuel Diener, Chakshu Patel), with their game of “The Final Space Race,” 11.8 points.
The teams chose their prizes in the order they finished. The prizes donated were three passes donated by the New England Aquarium good through 2021, three $100 Target gift card, three $25 Apple gift cards and three $25 Amazon gift cards.
Designers and refiners of the challenge were members of the Somerville Math Fund Board: Sanford Bogage, Chase Duclos-Orsello, Adam Foster, Monica Fernandes, Richard Graf, Jay Landers, Kelly O’Connell, Erica Voolich, Susan Weiss with design suggestions and distribution help from Patricia Murphy-Sheehy at Somerville High, Head of Math Department. The math teachers at Somerville High School, recruited student teams.
Thanks to our sponsors, this activity was both a fund raiser for scholarships, provided prizes for the students and allowed the students to participate without paying any registration fee. Our wonderful sponsors were Commercial Cleaning Co/Bickoff Family, Jasper J. Lawson, PhD. and Associates, Midé Technology Corporation, Tufts University, Winter Hill Bank, and two anonymous donors.
The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville. On January 7th, we will be looking for teacher grant applications; and in April, we will be looking for scholarship applications. For more information or to volunteer or to make a donation, call 617-666-0666, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org.