A Successful PiLot Program

by Roland Minton on March 15, 2015

Pie03 Pie05

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.

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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.

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A Piece of Pi

by Roland Minton on March 13, 2015

2015 01

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).

2015 02


The Ramsey Games

by Roland Minton on March 9, 2015

Natalie Wilkinson

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.


RC programmers went down to Georgia

February 25, 2015

They were looking for a trophy to steal, They lost their minds on the eight hour drive, But they were willing to brave the ordeal. On February 21st, Mercer University hosted their Spring Programming competition.  While the competition was originally started to give the Mercer University students a chance to practice their programming skills during […]

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A Man of Character

February 18, 2015

Bob Hudson, a Physics instructor from 1962 to 1996 at Roanoke College, passed away this week. The word “character” describes Bob as well as one word can ever capture a person. I’m using the word in both the “lovable eccentric” sense as well as the “moral integrity” sense – I think Bob would appreciate the […]

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MCSP Ballers

January 29, 2015

Roanoke College has a long history of basketball success. Current men’s coach Page Moir and recently retired women’s coach Susan Dunagan hold the records for most ODAC conference wins. A lesser known, but more important, tradition is MCSP majors in the starting lineup. The list includes James (JP) Pennix, the well-named Ken Sine, Bryant Lee, […]

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Bones and Books

January 26, 2015

The second floor of Trexler is haunted by intermittent clattering sounds! Actually, there is no need for a paranormal investigation, it’s just Drs. Taylor (Dave) and Childers (Adam) playing dice games. For Dave, this was partly research for his book The Mathematics of Games: An Introduction to Probability, recently published by CRC Press. The book […]

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Freeze Frame

December 10, 2014

There is an old saying that “the camera does not lie.” Putting aside the fact that PhotoShop does, the use of high-speed photography has revealed some fascinating facts. MCSP has such a camera; although it is very low resolution, we did capture a rubber band oscillating and verified the mathematical solution (found in Math 332) […]

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Computer Science Software Showcase

December 4, 2014

In continuing with the tradition started just last year, the Computer Science department held a showcase for students in the introductory Computer Science and Mobile App INQ courses to show the software they created this semester to a wider audience. The computer science students were allowed to choose their final projects, and were required to […]

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Q From RC: A Distinguished Alumnus

November 11, 2014

What do our graduates do with a physics or mathematics major? For years, one of our answers has been “assistant director of the FBI” but until recently I did not know the details of our distinguished alumnus, William A. (Al) Bayse. Some surreptitious sleuthing unearthed excerpts from books about the FBI, including recently declassified information […]

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