Pi Day (March 14) meant pie day for a group of Roanoke College students. Under the supervision of Lavelle Glenn, RC’s Bake Shop Coordinator, and math professor Jan Minton, the students produced 31 apple pies (that’s 10π pies) and delivered them to the Samaritan Inn and the Rescue Mission to give the folks there a special Pi Day treat.
Wash the apples, peel them, measure out the spices, stir it all together, seal it with pie crust, mark it with the Greek letter of the day, and repeat. Thanks to a great group of bakers: Taylor Ferebee, Becky Muolo, Emily Grice, Samantha Snead, Terry Ramirez, Dannielle Allen, Caroline Peterson, Morgan Elston, Sam Parsons, and Eryka Darrow.
In preparation for The Pi Day of the Century, President Maxey installed the coconut cream pie of the day on Dr. Chris Lee’s face today right after lunch. Since the number π is 3.14—, March 14 is officially Pi Day, and has become a popular day to celebrate our inner geek. This year’s Pi Day is especially good because the next two digits of π give 3.1415— or 3/14/15, and if you can’t stop the next three digits of π give 3.1415926— so brunch at Mac and Bob’s on 3/14/15 at 9:26 is the ultimate. (Sorry, I do not intend to add the 53 or any other digits. My pi-ness is defiantly finite.)
The Math Club organized several events for this year’s Pi Day. Dr. Lee “won” the right to be pied by having the most money donated in his name. Jars with names of the second floor math faculty were open for donations. The will of the people was clear, with Lee bringing in twice the money of the second place finisher, Dr. Taylor. The money goes to the West End Center. Students have been busy yesterday and today with the Pi-Athlon, a series of math events to earn points with the team getting closest to 100π points being the winner. After brunch on Saturday is a pie-baking event, with numerous pies (we’re hoping for 314 servings) to be baked and donated to a local food organization.
For now, the pi-nnacle has been the President’s pie-ing of Professor Lee. Apparently, there were no hard feelings (but there are rumors that Dr. Lee was seen writing President Maxey’s name on a jar for next year).
This is a story about a young woman who finds herself in a dystopian society in the Capitol playing Ramsey Games in a battle for survival. Okay, that grossly overstates the case, but Natalie Wilkinson’s REU experience at the University of Maryland had more drama than most.
Natalie is a Computer Science and Mathematics double major who spent last summer working on what are called Ramsey games. These can be thought of as generalized Tic-Tac-Toe games. The playing board consists of some number of points, and players take turns connecting two points with a colored marker. The winner is the first to form a given cycle (e.g., a triangle) of a single color. One of the goals of the research is to identify the number of points needed for the player who goes first to be guaranteed a victory (remember that in Tic-Tac-Toe victories are unlikely).
Natalie’s work was part of Maryland’s NSF-funded Combinatorial Applied Algorithms Research (CAAR) program in Computer Science. Natalie was one of ten students chosen, with colleagues from Princeton, Columbia, Macalester and others. Her team of three was chosen as the outstanding research team and the research paper they produced has been submitted to a top journal.
So where is the drama? REUs can sometimes be disorganized. Natalie dormed with several members of the robotics REU at Maryland, who generally had a better experience. Somebody had decided in advance that the Ramsey game group would code in C, a language which only one of the team members knew. The one C programmer approached problems in a different way than his two partners, leaving Natalie to clean up his coding. The faculty leaders were of little help with programming and other issues, giving Natalie several reasons to be thankful for her Roanoke College CS professors.
Otherwise, the experience was positive. Weekend trips into DC, good food, (mostly) smart and enthusiastic colleagues to socialize and work with, and some good results overshadow the frustrations of organizational breakdowns. So, the story ends with our warrior beating the system.