Real World Problems - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 30th September 2016

Real World Problems

Clongowes physics and applied maths students are again involved in research projects with the University of Limerick. This will be the fifth year that the science department will linked up with the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry to develop mathematical models for real world problems.

Professor James Gleeson, a world leader in his field, will visit Clongowes next Thursday (6th October) to launch the first phase of the project. Professor Gleeson will meet with students from Syntax and Poetry to introduce the concept of Mathematical Modelling and its power to solve real world problems. Last year’s topics included:

  • Building a useful mathematical model that could assist ‘searchers’ in planning a useful search for a lost plane feared to have crashed in open water such as the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Southern or Arctic Ocean while flying from point A to point B.
  • Modelling a lepidoptera (an order of insects that includes gypsy moths and butterflies) population to predict how the population will change over time.
  • Developing a methodology to predict future stock prices based on historical data.

These are not stated as mathematical problems; they are real world problems, and it is the students’ job to develop mathematical models describing them. In thgis – the first phase of the project – the young problem solvers will brainstorm ideas, decide what variables could be involved in the system, discern which to analyse and then gather the appropriate data.

Professor Gleeson will spend time with each group listening, guiding, challenging, and inspiring the students. In 6 to 8 weeks time he will return to see what progress has been made and to formally launch the second phase of the project, which will involve the development of the actual mathematical models describing these systems. The third and final phase will be the testing of these models with possible re-evaluation and re-testing. The students will then complete a report and make a final presentation in the University of Limerick on the model which they develop.

This project is unique to Clongowes and is a fantastic opportunity for our students to get involved in real world applications and see how problems in science and industry can be dealt with using physics and mathematics. Special thanks must go to Professor James Gleeson, through whom this link has been established, for his extraordinary generosity. Professor Gleeson is one of the world’s foremost applied mathematicians and we are deeply grateful for the time and effort he invests in this project.

Mr Stephen O’Hara

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