April 28, 2006

Regional Math Tournament

Aloha mis amigos. Long time no habla. Well, I'm sorry about that, I've been busy with homework and such and this is the first time I've been awake enough to blog. I'll try to be more regular. I want to talk about. . . . MATH! (what a shocker) Thursday, April 13, 2006 was the Regional Math Tournament. Essentially, two people from each math level comepete from each school against other schools. I represented half of my school's precalc team. I think a total of about 8 of us went, all geeks. I was one of the geekier ones, but we'll look past that.
There are several events at the tournament, namely "The Qualifier", "25-Minus", "Group Problem Solving", "Estimation", and "THE RELAY" (caps for emphasis (if you didn't know that then leave (seriously (go)))). Let me walk you through it. First off was the State Qualifying exam. 15 questions, 1 hour. It wasn't hard at all, but due to several ridiculously stupid errors, I didn't score so hot. I got a 12 I think, they never told us, but I think it was a 12. After that was 25-minus. Basically, all the teams in a particular level sit in a room together, but you sit separately from your teammate. You are shown a problem on an overhead and a time limit. You have that amount of time to solve the problem and write it down. Times range from 45 seconds to a minute and a half. You are then shown the answers and the people that got them right raise their hands. They subtract the number of people who answered correctly from 25 and then give that many points to the teams that answered. In other words, being the only person to answer a question is good. We were all ready, psyched, ready to win it for the team, when the first problem came up. Now, what you are about to see is not the actual problem, but it will give you a rough idea. . . .

Yeah, scary. The atmosphere in the room was almost laughable. Here we were, brightest and best, and we just sat there. Some laughed. Most just sat. I tried my hardest, reducing and reducing, reducing and reducing, and ended up with some random equation with about 5 terms on top and 4 terms on the bottom. Then she showed the answer. It looked something like

There was definitely some laughter when THAT showed up on the board. Everybody that had tried sheepishly crumpled up their papers and looked around to make sure nobody had seen what they had gotten for an answer. The lady asked how many people got it right. Nobody raised their hands. Total Failure -1, Best and Brightest -0. Next problem. Imagine the last problem, but with another term added to the top and bottom. again, laughter and failure. The answer was just as stupid and the emberassment mounted. Nowe we're desparate, we want points!!! The proctor is shocked, can't believe that we haven't answered a question yet. Finally, answerable questions started appearing. My partner was smoking everybody. I answered I think 4 of them, but she definitely stole the show. So yeah, 25-minus was ok. Third event, group problem solving. This was kind of entertaining. 3 problems, 30 minutes. We looked at them and found that the las problem would be easy. We quickly knocked out the last problem and started working on the second one. The question?

Simple enough. Solve for x in terms of a, substitute it in for x in the second equation, and bingo, problem solved. Well, it got ugly. Solving for a resulted in

Ok, not so bad, quadratic equation. Until, you plug it into the second part of the equation. Then you get . Then we had a debate. Plus. . . .or minus? Such a simple question that could result in much more work than necessary if the wrong choice is chosen. We decided to do both. My partner did plus, I did minus. So, here's the equation we worked:

We just kept multiplying it out and eventually we got to, um, well, it was big. Like, really big. We decided that was the wrong route to take, so we looked at the question again. "Well, couldn't we just leave it? Use this last equation we had?" The problem didn't say to expand it all the way out, just write it in terms of A. So, we left it. On to the first problem. It said to imagine a parallelogram and gave the lengths of the sides. "Solve for the diagonals". Um, uh-oh. We couldn't, and it said that the answers were integers, so we improvised. We drew a parallelogram to scale and measured the angles. Ta-da! 9 and 15. We were done, and not confident. We knew that we had the last one right, but that was it.

The next event was the relay. Basically, teams lined up on one side of the gym, math problems on the other. One at a time members from each team would run over, solve a problem and run back. I'll avoid the gory details and suffice it to say, our school dominated. uber winning-ness. Now, lets talk about estimation. Throughout the day there was a big bowl of marshmallows (big and small). The challenge was to guess the amount of marshmallows. The winner gets a graphing calculator. Well, ha! I failed that one. I guessed 900. My partner wrote, on the little paper you write your guess one, "Let a = my guess. Define "a" such that it equals the amount of marshmallows in the bowl. QED". Personally, I think that should have won, but no.

The awards were next. I got third in the qualifying exam, enough for a ribbon but not enough for state. The first shocker was team problem solving. My partner and I had given up, but all of a sudden WHOA! We won! haha, kurazy! Either we guessed really well, or other people had no idea what was going on! w00t, that was exciting. My partner won 25-minus. Then, estimation. I was wrong, oh so wrong. The answer was 1,438. The winner, however, went to our school. Her guess? (You won't believe this. . . ) 1,444. She was off by 6! Amazing, she won a TI-84 silver. Then she won another TI-84 silver in another category! TWO CALCULATORS! She'll be selling them to wal-mart. Our school ended up winning overall, so that was good. I ended up with a bunch of ribbons and all was good. Hope you enjoyed the story! Ciao!

April 16, 2006

Bathroom Texting

Every once in a while something comes along that just BLOWS MY MIND! I was surfing the interweb today when I ended up at the Random Hall Bathroom server, which is basically a read out of which bathrooms are occupied and which bathrooms are vacant at MIT's Random Hall. Well, there appeared to be a new link, so I clicked it, and what followed was absolutely amazing.


These guys installed a little screen across from the toilet that has a HAL light on it. Essentially, somebody goes onto the website and can see if somebody is in the bathroom. If they are, the person online can type a short message and pick a tone and then send it. The display in the bathroom beeps the selected tone and displays the message to the person that's, um, taking care of business. Here's the link so that you too can participate in the texting!


Unfortunately Blogger is being stupid and not letting me upload pictures right now, so I will later, but visit the site.

April 07, 2006

Bus Bounce

I have to ride the bus home from school from time to time, and it's always an interesting experience. Let me begin by saying that I have the worst bus driver ever. He yells at you for touching the windows and always drives up on the curbs. Let's talk about dem curbs for a sec. I was sitting in the back seat of the bus on the right side. A friend of mine was sitting in front of me and two of my other friends were sitting across the aisle. Well, all of a sudden, curb. Have you ever seen that video of the bus that goes out of control and the kid that gets launched into the air? Well, that's what happened to me and the kid in front of me. Technically we didn't go straight up, but we were lifted off our seats and flung into the aisle. No joke, none of that weak centrifugal force crap, we were thrown, flung, into the aisle. Ow, I slammed against my backpack and was sprawled out. My friend had hit his head on the edge of the seat across from him. Then, what goes up must come down, the bus came off the curb. We got lifted again and flung into the seat across from us, into the laps of my other friends. Ok, ow. Not fun, it was like getting tossed around by a bull. We managed to pull ourselves up and get back into our seats. My friend was hurting, having hit his head, but I was seeing red spots. Like, seriously, like a laser pointer, flashing around. THAT was bizzare. It went away eventually, but holy cow. What a terrible bus driver. Nobody else fell, of course, just us. We got laughed at. NOT OUR FAULT! WE CAN'T FIGHT GRAVITY AND FORCE! Have any interesting bus stories? Please comment, I'd love to read them! Ciao.

Lasers, Mirrors, Water, and Pure & Unfiltered Hatred

Before Spring Break we got a neat project assigned in Physics called a "Laser Race". Essentially, there is a course and a bunch of obstacles. The laser starts from a fixed position and you have to use mirrors and refraction tanks to guide the laser around the obstacles, perhaps hitting a bonus or two, and eventually hit a target. Depending on how close you get to the center, that's the grade you get. You have to use two mirrors and one refraction tank, but you can add up to two mirrors for 5 extra credit points each and 1 refraction tank for ten extra credit points. Anyways, we had to work in groups of 2, my partner was Jake. We laid out our course during class and then when I went on my trip over break Jake did all the calculations and set-up. "Hold on" you say, "What's a refraction tank?!?!?" Well, let me tell ya, it's more difficult to work with than a mirror. Here's how it works. . .it's a dish shaped in a half circle filled with water. When a laser enters the flat side at an angle it bends through the water, coming out at a different angle. There's a calculation for finding the angle it enters and the angle it leaves. Here's a little graphical representation: You know angle "i" but you need to find angle "r", here's the equation. There's a reason I'm telling you all of this, and here's that reason: We screwed up. Our first problem is that our original setup used 5 mirrors, one more than we were allowed. The second problem is that Jake inverted the equation he did Sin[r] over Sin[i]. So, basically, our course was hosed and the coolest part is that we didn't discover this until the lunch period before the laser shoot. That gave us about 12 minutes to either
  1. Fix our course
  2. Make a new one

Well, we tried to fix our course but soon decided that that wasn't feasible within the time constraints, so we had to devise a new course. Well, the mirror part was easy, just slap on a bunch of 45º mirrors and the laser should just make right angles straight across the course. Nothing fancy, no bonuses, save for using an extra mirror. But, here was the major problem. We had to include a refraction tank. As you can see, adding a refraction tank actually took math and figuring, both of which we didn't have time for because we had about 5 minutes at this point. We sat there, very close to defeat, no idea what to do, we had to add a refraction tank but it would send the laser off in some weird angle that we didn't have time to calculate. Suddenly Jake got an idea. Couldn't we arrange two tanks in such a way that they cancel out the refraction effects, thereby eliminating the need for math? Aha! We figured it out! Simply take two refraction tanks and place the flat ends together, creating a circle. That way the laser should pass straight through the center of the circle and the refraction of the two tanks would cancel each other out. Yay! We had a plan that would work! Here's the course we decided on, the brown blocks are the obstacles and the laser originates in the upper left. The blue things are the mirrors and the two half circle tanks are near the end, in case chance refraction occured it wouldn't have a lot of time to get off course before hitting the target. Well, we got to class and were super excited to have such a simple course that should be deadly accurate. Also, we were quite proud of ourselves for figuring out how to cancel out the refraction tanks, even roping in the 10 extra points for using an extra tank. Well, it was our turn, and we had 5 minutes to set up. We quickly set up the mirrors, no problem, just 45º on graph paper. I set up the tanks, aligned them so the laser would hit exactly in the center, and then we were good to go. We have to do the setup with the laser turned off and then we have one shot to just turn it on and see what happens. We were set in a minute flat. We switched on the laser and BOOM! Perfect hit! Cue me and Jake high-fiving and w00ting and generally being merry. 100 points + 10 for the refraction tank + 5 for the mirror = 115 points out of 100. Well, Jake and I were happy and spent the rest of the class period just kinda hanging out. Well, at the end of class, our teacher anounced the top three teams. We weren't one of them. Uh-oh. Teacher then reports "The rest of the groups need to redo their laser shoots because, well, you all missed the target or had some issues". Oh no you didn't! He did NOT just give us a zero on our shoot! You can bet that we complained. Apparently he was upset that we had cancelled our refraction tanks, not demonstrating true refraction. NOT COOL! He made us have to come in after school some time and make it up. NOT COOL! We got 115 points and didn't break a single rule! Grrrrrr! Well, today we redid our shoot and still used the refraction tanks to cancel each other, but now it looked more like this: I actually did calculations to make the tanks work. We hit the 100 using the same amounts of mirrors and tanks, but he only gave us a 90. That would be a 25 point deduction. NOT COOL! Grrrrrr, hence the unfiltered hatred part of the title.


Hello blog readers of mine. I am currently undergoing some of the hardest schooling ever, and due to this I may not be updating my blog as often as I would like. I have started another blog about my spring break but it's not finished yet, feel free to read it though . . . . http://snivelytrip.blogspot.com Remember, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. It's dumb, I know, I'll be fixing it, but like I said, not a lot of time/desire to do it right now. Here's a preview of some posts I plan on making when I have the time/desire, just to give you a heads up:
  • Lasers, Mirrors, Water, and Pure & Unfiltered Hatred
  • The Bus-Bounce
  • Regional Math Tournament
  • Construction Career Day
  • Naps

I look forward to typing most of these, so they will come eventually, please be patient and enjoy reading the rest of my blog, leave a comment here or there, I promise that I read them all. Ciao!