Results of Past MCM Teams from

Central Washington University









Successful Participant

Jason Milne

Traca Flowers

Raul Castro

The Sweet Spot


Honorable Mention

Monica Dinescu

Jesse Ellis

Mary Kastning



Successful Participant

Sara L. Hanold

Amber Goodrich

Geoff LaBrant

Energy and the Cell Phone



Brandon Belieu

Russell Hess

Kyle Mitchell

Designing a Traffic Circle


Successful Participant

Amber Goodrich

Alisha Zimmer

Take a Bath


Honorable Mention

Blair Sherman

Alisha Zimmer

Melissa Thompson

The Airplane Seating Problem



Amy Eglin

Blair Sherman

Frederick Lieske III

Wheel Chair Access



Amy Eglin

Andrew Musselman

Nicholas Stanford



Meritorious & Ben Fussaro Award!

Seth Miller

Dustin Mixon

Jonathan Pickett

Are Fingerprints Unique?



Erik Langland

Seth Miller

Jonathan Pickett

The Stunt Person


Successful Participant

Marion Andrin

Jonathan Pickett

Evan Yates

Wind and Waterspray


Successful Participant

Sean Baxter

Erik Langland

Andrew McNeil

Wind and Waterspray





2010  PROBLEM A: The Sweet Spot

Explain the "sweet spot" on a baseball bat.

Every hitter knows that there is a spot on the fat part of a baseball bat where maximum power is transferred to the ball when hit. Why isn't this spot at the end of the bat? A simple explanation based on torque might seem to identify the end of the bat as the sweet spot, but this is known to be empirically incorrect. Develop a model that helps explain this empirical finding.

Some players believe that "corking" a bat (hollowing out a cylinder in the head of the bat and filling it with cork or rubber, then replacing a wood cap) enhances the "sweet spot" effect. Augment your model to confirm or deny this effect. Does this explain why Major League Baseball prohibits "corking"?

Does the material out of which the bat is constructed matter? That is, does this model predict different behavior for wood (usually ash) or metal (usually aluminum) bats? Is this why Major League Baseball prohibits metal bats?

2010  PROBLEM B: Criminology

In 1981 Peter Sutcliffe was convicted of thirteen murders and subjecting a number of other people to vicious attacks. One of the methods used to narrow the search for Mr. Sutcliffe was to find a "center of mass" of the locations of the attacks. In the end, the suspect happened to live in the same town predicted by this technique. Since that time, a number of more sophisticated techniques have been developed to determine the "geographical profile" of a suspected serial criminal based on the locations of the crimes.

Your team has been asked by a local police agency to develop a method to aid in their investigations of serial criminals. The approach that you develop should make use of at least two different schemes to generate a geographical profile. You should develop a technique to combine the results of the different schemes and generate a useful prediction for law enforcement officers. The prediction should provide some kind of estimate or guidance about possible locations of the next crime based on the time and locations of the past crime scenes. If you make use of any other evidence in your estimate, you must provide specific details about how you incorporate the extra information. Your method should also provide some kind of estimate about how reliable the estimate will be in a given situation, including appropriate warnings.

In addition to the required one-page summary, your report should include an additional two-page executive summary. The executive summary should provide a broad overview of the potential issues. It should provide an overview of your approach and describe situations when it is an appropriate tool and situations in which it is not an appropriate tool. The executive summary will be read by a chief of police and should include technical details appropriate to the intended audience.

2009  PROBLEM B: Energy and the Cell Phone

This question involves the "energy" consequences of the cell phone revolution. Cell phone usage is mushrooming, and many people are using cell phones and giving up their landline telephones. What is the consequence of this in terms of electricity use? Every cell phone comes with a battery and a recharger.
Requirement 1
Consider the current US, a country of about 300 million people. Estimate from available data the number H of households, with m members each, that in the past were serviced by landlines. Now, suppose that all the landlines are replaced by cell phones; that is, each of the m members of the household has a cell phone. Model the consequences of this change for electricity utilization in the current US, both during the transition and during the steady state. The analysis should take into account the need for charging the batteries of the cell phones, as well as the fact that cell phones do not last as long as landline phones (for example, the cell phones get lost and break).
Requirement 2
Consider a second "Pseudo US"-a country of about 300 million people with about the same economic status as the current US. However, this emerging country has neither landlines nor cell phones. What is the optimal way of providing phone service to this country from an energy perspective? Of course, cell phones have many social consequences and uses that landline phones do not allow. A discussion of the broad and hidden consequences of having only landlines, only cell phones, or a mixture of the two is welcomed.
Requirement 3
Cell phones periodically need to be recharged. However, many people always keep their recharger plugged in. Additionally, many people charge their phones every night, whether they need to be recharged or not. Model the energy costs of this wasteful practice for a Pseudo US based upon your answer to Requirement 2. Assume that the Pseudo US supplies electricity from oil. Interpret your results in terms of barrels of oil.
Requirement 4
Estimates vary on the amount of energy that is used by various recharger types (TV, DVR, computer peripherals, and so forth) when left plugged in but not charging the device. Use accurate data to model the energy wasted by the current US in terms of barrels of oil per day.
Requirement 5
Now consider population and economic growth over the next 50 years. How might a typical Pseudo US grow? For each 10 years for the next 50 years, predict the energy needs for providing phone service based upon your analysis in the first three requirements. Again, assume electricity is provided from oil. Interpret your predictions in term of barrels of oil.

2009  PROBLEM A: Designing a Traffic Circle

Many cities and communities have traffic circles-from large ones with many lanes in the circle (such as at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Victory Monument in Bangkok) to small ones with one or two lanes in the circle. Some of these traffic circles position a stop sign or a yield sign on every incoming road that gives priority to traffic already in the circle; some position a yield sign in the circle at each incoming road to give priority to incoming traffic; and some position a traffic light on each incoming road (with no right turn allowed on a red light). Other designs may also be possible. The goal of this problem is to use a model to determine how best to control traffic flow in, around, and out of a circle. State clearly the objective(s) you use in your model for making the optimal choice as well as the factors that affect this choice. Include a Technical Summary of not more than two double-spaced pages that explains to a Traffic Engineer how to use your model to help choose the appropriate flow-control method for any specific traffic circle. That is, summarize the conditions under which each type of traffic-control method should be used. When traffic lights are recommended, explain a method for determining how many seconds each light should remain green (which may vary according to the time of day and other factors). Illustrate how your model works with specific examples.

2008  PROBLEM A: Take a Bath

Consider the effects on land from the melting of the north polar ice cap due to the predicted increase in global temperatures. Specifically, model the effects on the coast of Florida every ten years for the next 50 years due to the melting, with particular attention given to large metropolitan areas. Propose appropriate responses to deal with this. A careful discussion of the data used is an important part of the answer.

2007  PROBLEM B: The Airplane Seating Problem

Airlines are free to seat passengers waiting to board an aircraft in any order whatsoever. It has become customary to seat passengers with special needs first, followed by first-class passengers (who sit at the front of the plane). Then coach and business-class passengers are seated by groups of rows, beginning with the row at the back of the plane and proceeding forward.

Apart from consideration of the passengers' wait time, from the airline's point of view, time is money, and boarding time is best minimized. The plane makes money for the airline only when it is in motion, and long boarding times limit the number of trips that a plane can make in a day.

The development of larger planes, such as the Airbus A380 (800 passengers), accentuate the problem of minimizing boarding (and deboarding) time.

Devise and compare procedures for boarding and deboarding planes with varying numbers of passengers: small (85-210), midsize (210-330), and large (450-800).

Prepare an executive summary, not to exceed two single-spaced pages, in which you set out your conclusions to an audience of airline executives, gate agents, and flight crews.

2006  PROBLEM B: Wheel Chair Access at Airports

One of the frustrations with air travel is the need to fly through multiple airports, and each stop generally requires each traveler to change to a different airplane. This can be especially difficult for people who are not able to easily walk to a different flight's waiting area. One of the ways that an airline can make the transition easier is to provide a wheel chair and an escort to those people who ask for help. It is generally known well in advance which passengers require help, but it is not uncommon to receive notice when a passenger first registers at the airport. In rare instances an airline may not receive notice from a passenger until just prior to landing.

Airlines are under constant pressure to keep their costs down. Wheel chairs wear out and are expensive and require maintenance. There is also a cost for making the escorts available. Moreover, wheel chairs and their escorts must be constantly moved around the airport so that they are available to people when their flight lands. In some large airports the time required to move across the airport is nontrivial. The wheel chairs must be stored somewhere, but space is expensive and severely limited in an airport terminal. Also, wheel chairs left in high traffic areas represent a liability risk as people try to move around them. Finally, one of the biggest costs is the cost of holding a plane if someone must wait for an escort and becomes late for their flight. The latter cost is especially troubling because it can affect the airline's average flight delay which can lead to fewer ticket sales as potential customers may choose to avoid an airline.

Epsilon Airlines has decided to ask a third party to help them obtain a detailed analysis of the issues and costs of keeping and maintaining wheel chairs and escorts available for passengers. The airline needs to find a way to schedule the movement of wheel chairs throughout each day in a cost effective way. They also need to find and define the costs for budget planning in both the short and long term.

Epsilon Airlines has asked your consultant group to put together a bid to help them solve their problem. Your bid should include an overview and analysis of the situation to help them decide if you fully understand their problem. They require a detailed description of an algorithm that you would like to implement which can determine where the escorts and wheel chairs should be and how they should move throughout each day. The goal is to keep the total costs as low as possible. Your bid is one of many that the airline will consider. You must make a strong case as to why your solution is the best and show that it will be able to handle a wide range of airports under a variety of circumstances.

Your bid should also include examples of how the algorithm would work for a large (at least 4 concourses), a medium (at least two concourses), and a small airport (one concourse) under high and low traffic loads. You should determine all potential costs and balance their respective weights. Finally, as populations begin to include a higher percentage of older people who have more time to travel but may require more aid, your report should include projections of potential costs and needs in the future with recommendations to meet future needs.



2005 B - Tollbooths

Heavily-traveled toll roads such as the Garden State Parkway, Interstate 95, and so forth, are multi-lane divided highways that are interrupted at intervals by toll plazas. Because collecting tolls is usually unpopular, it is desirable to minimize motorist annoyance by limiting the amount of traffic disruption caused by the toll plazas. Commonly, a much larger number of tollbooths is provided than the number of travel lanes entering the toll plaza. Upon entering the toll plaza, the flow of vehicles fans out to the larger number of tollbooths, and when leaving the toll plaza, the flow of vehicles is required to squeeze back down to a number of travel lanes equal to the number of travel lanes before the toll plaza. Consequently, when traffic is heavy, congestion increases upon departure from the toll plaza. When traffic is very heavy, congestion also builds at the entry to the toll plaza because of the time required for each vehicle to pay the toll.


Make a model to help you determine the optimal number of tollbooths to deploy in a barrier-toll plaza. Explicitly consider the scenario where there is exactly one tollbooth per incoming travel lane.  Under what conditions is this more or less effective than the current practice? Note that the definition of  "optimal" is up to you to determine.



2004 A - Are Fingerprints Unique?

It is a commonplace belief that the thumbprint of every human who has ever lived is different. Develop and analyze a model that will allow you to assess the probability that this is true. Compare the odds (that you found in this problem) of misidentification by fingerprint evidence against the odds of misidentification by DNA evidence.

2003 A - The Stunt Person

An exciting action scene in a movie is going to be filmed, and you are the stunt coordinator! A stunt person on a motorcycle will jump over an elephant and land in a pile of cardboard boxes to cushion their fall. You need to protect the stunt person, and also use relatively few cardboard boxes (lower cost, not seen by camera, etc.).


Your job is to:

*          determine what size boxes to use

*          determine how many boxes to use

*          determine how the boxes will be stacked

*          determine if any modifications to the boxes would help

*          generalize to different combined weights (stunt person & motorcycle) and different jump heights

Note that, in "Tomorrow Never Dies", the James Bond character on a motorcycle jumps over a helicopter.



2002 A - Wind and Waterspray

An ornamental fountain in a large open plaza surrounded by buildings squirts water high into the air. On gusty days, the wind blows spray from the fountain onto passersby. The water-flow from the fountain is controlled by a mechanism linked to an anemometer (which measures wind speed and direction) located on top of an adjacent building. The objective of this control is to provide passersby with an acceptable balance between an attractive spectacle and a soaking: The harder the wind blows, the lower the water volume and height to which the water is squirted, hence the less spray falls outside the pool area.

Your task is to devise an algorithm which uses data provided by the anemometer to adjust the water-flow from the fountain as the wind conditions change.