Grand Valley students win awards at Math Fest

Students Kelsey Scott and Vasily Zadorozhnyy at Math Fest.
Students Kelsey Scott and Vasily Zadorozhnyy at Math Fest.
Image Credit: Paul Fishback

Four Grand Valley mathematics students recently received awards for outstanding presentations at Math Fest, the annual summer conference of the Mathematical Association of America.

Students who received awards for their original research included Brianna King, Stephanie Loewen, Kelsey Scott, and Vasily Zadorozhnyy. Karen Novotny, professor of mathematics and department chair, said the students’ research projects and presentations are representative of the efforts of Grand Valley’s Mathematics Department to offer high-impact learning experiences for students. A group of students from Grand Valley has won an award for the past 13 consecutive years the university has had a presence at the conference.

Vasily Zadorozhnyy, a senior majoring in mathematics, said it was an unexpected honor to be rewarded at Math Fest. English is not Zadorozhnyy's native language, which made the positive reaction to his presentation much more meaningful. But, Zadorozhnyy still had plenty of nerves heading into the presentation, even though all of his fears went away as soon as he stepped in front of the crowd.

“The person who introduced me looked at my name and said ‘Oh my God, here’s someone with three Ys and two Zs,” said Zadorozhnyy. “That made me realize that I should be relaxed because the audience was my family in this field.”

Zadorozhnyy’s presentation featured a version of the Tiger Electronics “Lights Out” game created in 1995. For his project, Zadorozhnyy reworked the game so that new actions were possible, creating a more complex experience. He said he wanted to explore alternative conditions needed to win the new game.

“Others have done research on 'Lights Out,' but I wanted to give it a shot and see if I could discover anything new,” Zadorozhnyy said.

Zadorozhnyy said that Math Fest is a beneficial experience because it has the potential to impact the futures of students by showing them that math is a very active field full of research and career possibilities.

“Putting all of my experiences together makes me a more attractive candidate for graduate school,” Zadorozhnyy said. “All of these opportunities that Grand Valley provides for students, help prepare us for success.”