SCUDEM V 2020 - SIMIODE Challenge Using Differential Equations Modeling



We offer an invitation to participate in SCUDEM V 2020 at local school sites with Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020, for schools within a two hour drive of a growing set of local sites. We shall be posting site locations as their numbers grow. We invite you to host SCUDEM at your school. SCUDEM V 2020 Registration opens 1 September 2020 and runs through 25 October 2020 for three member student teams and faculty coach from high school and undergraduate institutions.

The SCUDEM V 2020 challenge takes place over a period that begins on Friday, 6 November 2020, at each team’s home campus and culminates on Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020, at a regional host site. Beginning Friday, 6 November 2020, can access three modeling scenarios involving differential equations – physics/engineering, chemistry/life sciences, or social sciences/humanities. They select one and work at their home institution, developing approaches and solutions to their chosen scenario. The scenarios are designed so that every team can succeed in modeling, thus building their skills and confidence in differential equations.

Each team will prepare a draft Executive Summary and 10 minute Presentation to bring to the regional host site on Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020. Teams will submit their anonymous Executive Summary (paper copy) at registration/check-in. Initially, student teams will work on a small modification of the modeling scenario they have selected (for example, effects of new assumptions, variables or changes in parameters) for inclusion in their final Presentation, NOT their Executive Summary, though. They are NOT to redo their model, rather they are to discuss how this modification might be used in their model and outcomes to expect. During this time faculty will judge student teams’ Executive Summaries.

Faculty will participate in faculty development experiences to help them incorporate more modeling in their coursework. SIMIODE has complete, off-the-shelf, ready-to-go, faculty development materials available and will work with local campus coordinators to tailor the workshop as needed. The first portion of the faculty development program will involve students with all engaging in a real-time modeling activity.

Then at noon student teams will submit their fully identified electronic Executive Summary and Presentation files to challenge monitors for posting at the end of SCUDEM V 2020.  Their Presentation will be used in afternoon sessions and must address the additional issue.

During the afternoon session, each team, in one of several tracks of four teams, will give a 10 minute Presentation, scored by coaches and guest faculty. The challenge culminates with an awards ceremony rounding out the day by 4:30 PM to allow time to travel home.

There is a $100 registration fee for each coach-team pair which includes both faculty development workshop and team participation. Additional teams from the same school, with each team having its own coach, preferably, may also register for $100 for each additional coach-team pair. There are no registration fees for schools in developing countries as an outreach effort to our colleagues there. All teams must have a faculty coach. Registration fees are paid through SIMIODE's PayPal portal using a credit card. This portal will be open from 1 September 2020 -  1 November 2020.  Additional faculty, who are not coaching a team, may join workshop and judging activities at no cost. Membership in SIMIODE is FREE at SIMIODE Registration.

SCUDEM Lite 2020 Postings (First MAA Section SCUDEM Lite Event)

We have posted information about SCUDEM Lite 2020 Materials and Videos (videos to be posted). SCUDEM Lite 2020 was scheduled to occur at the MAA Intermountain Section Meeting on 28 March 2020 at Westminster College Salt Lake City UT USA.  This event was canceled because of the virus health issue. We have posted the one problem on the very corona virus. However, we asked teams to prepare and post on YouTube a 10 minute video for volunteer judges to examine (20 of them from the SIMIODE community thank you very much!) This process will be completed c. 15 April 2020 and once we get student permission we will share these presentation videos to demonstrate the remarkable efforts of students.
We plan to expand our offering of SCUDEM Lite  to all MAA Sections in Spring 2021. and if you are interested in having SCUDEM Lite at your MAA Section Spring 2021 meeting contact ALL is FREE in SCUDEM Lite with the single aspect of student teams producing a 10 minute talk as part of a SCUDEM Lite session at the Section meeting with judging and feedback for teams.

Helpful Comments from Previous SCUDEM Events Problem Author

We have posted complete problem and additional issue statements from all of the previous SCUDEM events along with Commentary and Overview on the Problems from the problem author, Dr. Kelly Black, of the Department of Mathematics, University of Georgia, Athens GA USA. These are very worthwhile reads, highlighting good practices in modeling and communicating results. These materials can be found under Challenge Results for each year at the SCUDEM main web page.


An Executive Summary is typically a Summary of the results which is forwarded to an Executive for a decision. It might well be named Essential Summary, for it should have the essentials of the activity described, with attention to terms, definitions, assumptions, details, results or conclusions, and reflection, but NOT be laden with computations or reference material.

  1. SCUDEM is for 3 member teams of students at the high school or undergraduate level.
  2. Registration begins 1 September 2020 and closes 25 October 2020.
  3. Challenge begins one minute after Midnight EDT Friday, 6 November 2020, with posting of three problems for selection by teams, and closes with submission of Presentations on Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020, at noon local site time.
  4. Teams and coaches register (1 September-25 October 2020) at SIMIODE and SCUDEM.  
  5. At one minute past Midnight EDT Friday, 6 November 2020, teams can access problems.  
  6. During the period, Friday, 6 November 2020, through Challenge Saturday, 9 November 2020, teams work on their problem at their home institution, producing a two page Executive Summary and a 10 minute Presentation to bring to a local site.
  7. NO animate assistance to the team is permitted on the problem effort.
  8. On Challenge Saturday morning the following break outs will occur from 9 AM to 10:30 AM at local site
    • Faculty meet for judging Executive Summaries and initial faculty development activities on using modeling in teaching.
    • Student teams go to separate rooms to address an additional issue posed for each problem and incorporate the results of their efforts in their Presentation. Students DO NOT redo their model.
    • Students join faculty for faculty development workshop in which all participate in a real modeling activity and share each others' perspective on the process.

At morning check-in teams submit (10) paper copies of their identified Executive Summary at registration without addressing the additional issue offered. Then, at noon local site time, student teams submit their identified electronic files for their Executive Summary and their Presentation, the latter ONLY addressing the additional issue to monitors for judging efforts. All files will be published in SIMIODE for review and consideration by future coach and student participants.

Role of the Coach

The role of the Coach for each team is to prepare the team members for participation in SCUDEM V 2020, and NOT to assist in any way with modeling efforts during the period of the challenge 6-14 November 2020.  Indeed, both coaches and team members will be asked to sign an Integrity Statement at Registration on the morning of Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020, which reads, “I, the undersigned, hereby state that during the challenge period, 6 - 14 November 2020, I have not received any animate assistance with regard to the SCUDEM problems as a student competitor. Neither have I given any assistance to any member of a team as a coach.”

Specifically, before 6 November 2020, but not during the challenge 6 - 9 November 2020, a coach can organize the team; meet with team members to discuss technical materials; go over past SCUDEM  modeling problems and student submissions; go over with team members the comments from the problem poser from past SCUDEM events on what good modeling should be; help students develop good presentation skills and concise writing and communication efforts; and go over the requirements for SCUDEM V 2020. The coach should make sure students understand what is expected of them in terms of deliverables: (1) a two page Executive Summary and (2) a 10 minute Presentation, both to be delivered on Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020.

Before the challenge begins coaches should stress the need for the team to settle on one of the three problems offered (and not carry forth with several problems’ analyses) in the first day or so and move on to success with their model building on that one selected problem. Further, coaches should stress that there is no one right answer.  SCUDEM is about the modeling process as applied to the problem of choice. Formulating and communicating efforts is most importance.

Coaches need to emphasize that ALL team members must participate in all aspects of SCUDEM, modeling, writing, and presentation.

Coaches may interact with team members during the challenge period, but under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should there be technical discussions about modeling efforts on their problem. This is THEIR chance to develop and grow. Coaches should let students bloom.

Here are some things for coaches to consider.

  1. Participate in Faculty Development Workshop on using modeling to teach differential equations. 
  2. Help form a team through coach’s class, Math Club, word of mouth, posting a flyer, etc.
  3. In a team, seek diversity of skills, e.g., not all programmers, not all “dreamers” – a blend.
  4. Find a nearby local site and register as Coach with team by 25 October 2020.
  5. Plan transportation to and from a local site on Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020. Make sure you assure them of meal arrangement – teams pay for lunch at local site. Also discuss meals in transit. Be sure they have needed money for an all-day outing.
  6. Make travel arrangements, i.e. meeting and return drop place; allotted time, mode, and travel route; driver or other transportation; meals in transit; parking (local site host coordinator will provide this information).
  7. Meet with team to go over exactly what SCUDEM V 2020 is all about, e.g., timeline, requirements, expectations. Involve past SCUDEM student participants.
  8. Talk about how to select which problem to do.
  9. Go over past SCUDEM problems and student submissions. Discuss how to attack the model first in practice sessions and then examine other students’ submissions.
  10. The three SCUDEM problems are in these domains (i) physical sciences or engineering, (ii) life sciences or chemistry, and (iii) social sciences.  Make sure students know there could be modeling and learning experiences in SCUDEM outside their area of study.
  11. Stress general modeling strategies; go over a complete modeling cycle from assumptions to model building to solutions and interpretations to parameter estimations or data fitting to revisiting reality to communicating final results in Executive Summary and Presentation; point out differential equations solution methods; make sure student accounts and access to computation tools are in order (all will have access to WiFi at host site); visit with them informally during the week to see if they are making progress – ask about their pace, their attention to school work and personal life(!) as well as time on task for SCUDEM; and perhaps offer them some nutritional snacks, yummy.
  12. Read the instructive essays by the problem poser for past SCUDEM events. These emphasizes what the problem poser had in mind and also how students addressed issues.
  13. Share some of your readings concerning modeling principles and good approaches.
  14. Meet with students occasionally during the challenge period to be sure they are aware of the rules and expectations.
  15. Email students from time to time to give moral support, send them some funny math stuff for chuckles.
  16. Ascertain if they are getting rest and maintaining a rich student life.
  17. DO NOT discuss the model itself or students’ strategies during Challenge Week.

Schedule for Challenge Saturday, 14 November 2020,  8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (Local time) 

8:30 AM

Teams arrive at local site. Debriefing, confirmation/registration, tour of facilities. Ten copies of paper version of two page Executive Summary submitted.

9:00 AM

  • Faculty meet to judge Executive Summaries and for Faculty Development I to engage in modeling activities in differential equations and other courses.
  • Student teams go to separate rooms to address an additional issue posed for each problem and incorporate the results of this efforts in their Presentation.
  • Electronic files for Executive Summary and Presentation submitted by noon.

10:30 AM

During Faculty Development I faculty and students combine for real modeling activity after which they share their perspectives.


Break for lunch. All pay for their own lunch in institution dining area.

1:00 PM

Faculty and students return to designated rooms. Faculty engage in Faculty Development II in which faculty share modeling experiences and discussions on modeling in coursework, while students compete in fun Math Bowl for team awards.

2:00 PM

Teams make Presentations— tracks of 4 Presentations each —10 minutes each, 5 minutes for questions, and 5 minute break between Presentations for scoring by faculty judges. (Total 2 hours.)  Teams must indicate how they incorporated the additional issues posed in the morning.

4:15 PM

(15 minute) Award presentations for Outstanding, Meritorious, and Successful team modeling and first, second, and third place for team MathBowl competition with departure at 4:30 PM.


  1. Offer students modeling opportunities in one area of mathematics, differential equations, to practice modeling skills and permit focus on modeling approach and mathematics.
  2. Foster the value and applicability of differential equations.
  3. Develop visual and verbal communication skills through written Executive Summary and oral Presentation.
  4. Bring faculty coaches together for Faculty Development to experience modeling activities and share ideas and activities in modeling with differential equations.

SCUDEM Offerings:

  • Create a supportive and competitive environment for modeling at host sites (for schools within a 2 hour drive) that builds camaraderie for students through team work.
  • Give students feedback on their work through seeing other group presentations, receiving feedback from on-site judges, and receiving final awards.
  • Offer faculty networking and development of activities for modeling in teaching.
  • Recognize creative skills and communication of students.
  • Have an enjoyable experience for faculty and students.

Benefits for school, students, and faculty

School:  For each school a team has represented the school on the fields of friendly strife and received a certificate for work on a model of a real-world situation. Most importantly, there is individual and school recognition as well as dialogue with peers.

Students:  For students there is the camaraderie of the three-person team and the opportunity to meet with students from other schools who are passionate about applying mathematics and share the same SCUDEM experience. For students of mathematics to be honored as a team effort is very motivating. Students who compete in the COMAP MCM/ICM say, that the time spent was the best undergraduate mathematics experience they have had.

Faculty:  Faculty make contacts with others who are interested in modeling in their coursework. Contacts can function and last as they are made at the regional level. Faculty come away from discussions refreshed with new ideas from other faculty, proud of what their students can accomplish, and in touch with new professional friendships.

Article of interest relative to SCUDEM demonstrating participation increases student self-efficacy in modeling with mathematics.

Czocher, J., K. Melhuish and S. S. Kandasamy. 2019. Building mathematics self-efficacy of STEM undergraduates through mathematical modelling.  International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology. See Blog Entry about this work and source URL.