By Alena Willbur
On Saturday, February 27th, the five Villanova seniors gathered in the resource center to begin the fourteen-hour working period to solve the three-part problem on the M3 challenge website. At 8am, the countdown began. By 10 a.m., laptops scattered on separate tables, chargers from at least seven different devices plugged in at every outlet, and remnants of breakfast muffins and emptied Starbucks drinks, took up the entirety of the room. Two members, Robert Vunabandi and Joseph Griffen, sat in a corner with two computers in front of them, and the rest of the members, Sol Choi, Jeffrey Lou, and Denny Truong, brainstormed in a separate study room, expressing possible solutions for part two of the problem on the whiteboard. Meanwhile, Dr. Lee, although unable to help the team with the problem, monitored the process with enthusiasm.
As the hours passed, the members began to express the real challenge of the competition. As member Sol Choi exited the room for a water break, he commented, “I’m definitely crazy for doing this,” but this did not stop the group from progressing.
By 11 a.m., Truong clapped his hands with an update: “The good news is we’re halfway done with number two. The bad news is––halfway is a wall.” With that said, the group decided to take a short break to refresh their minds. While Vunabandi and Griffen dribbled a soccer ball in the late morning sun, they discussed the predicted amount of time still needed to formulate a solution and write up a full report. Not much later, the group sat in the room, discussing part two of the problem in a seminar circle with vigorous determination. This group could very well be our future leaders in mathematics, so don’t be surprised if you see them on television one day reporting their recent breakthroughs in the science world.
At 4:49 p.m., Choi and Truong announced, “Number one is done!” They check off part one on the to-do poster taped to the door. With this achievement, and five hours left, the group gathered in the room again, strategizing their time in order to complete the assignment successfully.
In the last hour of the competition, each senior contributed his part to the coding of mathematical equations into the report. As the hour passed, with time scarce, the young mathematicians focused in on the task at hand: finishing in time to submit. The team scrambled to add in a table of contents, but with time against them, the team made an executive decision to submit while they still had five minutes to spare.