MassBay’s Student Math Challenge Team Earns Meritorious Honors

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WELLESLEY – A three-student MassBay math challenge team has received Meritorious recognition for their participation in the international competition, SIMIODE Challenge Using Differential Equations Modeling (SCUDEM) VII 2022.

The SCUDEM challenge is founded by the nonprofit organization, Systemic Initiative for Modeling Investigation and Opportunities with Differential Equations (SIMIODE).

Engineering student participants were Gift Sato Kuepouo of Worcester, Matthew Sharon of Natick, and Jesse Okoche of Weymouth. The team was led by MassBay math professor Igor Baryakhtar.

This is the first time a team from MassBay has participated in this international math challenge competition, and the only Massachusetts community college to participate.


“We are extremely proud of Dr. Baryakhtar and our students for participating and ranking in this international mathematical contest,” said MassBay President David Podell. “Jesse, Gift, and Matthew are paving the way for other MassBay students to compete in these types of academic tournaments by creating the framework for peers to follow in their footsteps. We look forward to cheering on this team and others in future competitions.”

The SCUDEM VII is a three-week challenge for students and faculty, focused on compelling applications, modeling, the study of differential equations, instructional technologies, and making the investigation of realistic scenarios possible. This year’s student groups chose one of three problems to break down into an equation: Introducing Stress, Mechanics of Suction Feeding, or People Ruin Everything.

The MassBay team submission was named “The Mechanics of Suction Feeding” and was based on a fish opening and closing their mouth, taking in water and prey. The team used this real-world scenario to transcribe and mimic this movement into a mathematical model. Team submissions were judged and awarded with Outstanding, Meritorious, or Successful honors. This year, 366 students from across the globe worked as teams to compete in the challenge. 




“Despite the impressive competition, the MassBay team stood out,” said Dr. Baryakhtar. “I am so proud of the team’s work, and especially of their effort. They took a complex subject and used their creativity and ingenuity to present a mathematical model that worked. It’s quite an achievement for MassBay and for these three outstanding scholars.”

Gift Sato Kuepouo is an electrical and computer engineering student born and raised in Cameroon, who now calls Worcester home. He has been named to the dean’s list every semester while at MassBay and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. In addition to his full-time course load, he is a member of the MassBay Student Government Association, the MassBay Men’s Soccer team, the International Club, the Students of Color program, the Engineering Club, the iWARP Club, the Biotechnology Club, the LEAD (Leadership Engagement And Development) program, and the STEM mentor program. Kuepouo is scheduled to graduate from MassBay in May 2023 with an associate of science degree and has plans to transfer to a four-year university to continue his studies in engineering. 

Matthew Sharon is studying electrical and computer engineering and is a 2018 graduate of Natick High School. He is an active math tutor in MassBay’s peer tutoring program and has earned a place on the dean’s list every semester at MassBay. Sharon is scheduled to graduate from MassBay in December 2022 and will transfer to the University of Massachusetts Lowell for the spring 2023 semester to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering.  

Born and raised in Botswana, Jesse Okoche is studying mechanical engineering at MassBay and lives in Weymouth. At MassBay, Okoche serves on the Student Government Association as the vice president of academic affairs, is a member of the Men’s Soccer team, is a mentee in the STEM Mentor Program, and is a peer mentor and peer tutor in math and engineering, and participated in the LEAD (Leadership Engagement And Development) program. He has earned a spot on the dean’s list every semester, has a 4.0 GPA, and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. He works in MassBay’s Career Services Center as an early college and career technical specialist, helping to build career and major exploration courses on the College’s learning management system. He is one of two student representatives on the College’s Teaching and Learning Committee. Okoche is scheduled to graduate from MassBay in May 2023 and will transfer to a four-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with an interest in solar energy generation and its thermal storage.

Inspired by the competition, in which the team used MatLab software, the students are creating a new club in Spring 2023 called the MassBay Math Computational Club. Club members will look to future competitions to showcase their knowledge of practical mathematics applications.

MassBay Community College Math Challenge team (left to right) Jesse Okoche, Gift Sato Kuepouo, Dr. Igor Baryakhtar, and Matthew Sharon on the Wellesley Hills campus, Wellesley Hills, MA, December 2022 (Photo/MassBay Community College).

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