West Ranch students become national finalists in math modeling competition 

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Chang

Five West Ranch High School students have made Santa Clarita Valley history by becoming finalists in a mathematics modeling competition.  

The West Ranch Team — composed of Alyssa Chang, Brandon Chang, Jayden Cho, Omkar Guha and Kent Gao — competed against 114 teams of 467 students to make the final round of just 13 teams.  

The Modeling the Future Challenge, a program of the Actuarial Foundation, challenges its contestants to combine math modeling, data analysis and risk management into one research project while working with a professional actuary — a person who uses math and data to calculate risk and suggest solutions.  

Omkar said while he wasn’t always sure of his capabilities, being recognized for them now gives him renewed confidence.  

“I felt immensely proud. I’m really happy that we’ve got to make it to Nationals. It makes me very sure of myself,” said Omkar.  “I wasn’t necessarily the most confident in my skills before this. But after this, I feel recognized for all the hard work my group and I put in. I feel really good about it.” 

Leading the group is Alyssa Chang, who recently made headlines in The Signal for winning a $50,000 scholarship through Southern California Edison and for being invited to a North American math competition.  

Her brother, Brandon, is also on the research team, which is called, “C3-G2.” He said he was thrilled when he heard the news they were heading to nationals.  

“I was just really excited,” said Brandon. “It felt really rewarding — considering we worked on this basically every single day for hours. And yeah, it was just really rewarding and exciting.” 

The team’s dedication was evident in the fact they spoke to The Signal from a public library during their spring break, where they were preparing more research for when they head to nationals.  

The project that got them to nationals is not simple. However, the team was able to explain it simply and clearly — it involved analyzing severe wind patterns in Texas and how they affected annual cotton yields. They found Texas had over 80 hurricanes since 1980, with a majority of them being a category three or higher.  

They figured out that if cotton farmers stopped planting in the month of June, the month of highest wind in the region, they could prevent crop loss and increase their yield in other months. As climate change will exacerbate the issue, a factor included in the team’s modeling, the solution would likely have increased benefits to farmers over time.   

While the project was heavy on identifying the problem, the team’s research also produced several solutions as well, including shifting cotton production to other parts of Texas during June and recommendations to bolster already existing federal indemnity insurance provided to farmers.  

Doing research into these weather patterns and how they affect farmers offered personal lessons to the team as well. 

“We personally learned that farmers — they don’t make a lot of money, right?” said Guha. “They provide a huge service to society, but they actually don’t necessarily get a lot of benefit from that, at least the majority of farmers. At the personal level, we began seeing them as a vulnerable actor as a group because that is truly what they are, financially speaking.” 

“I would just like to add on to that a little bit,” said Brandon. “I really hope that some of the research that we did actually ends up making a real-world impact because cotton farmers in Texas don’t necessarily make the most money. We found that some of them make an average of $30,000 per year… We really believe that some of the recommendations, the key recommendations that we made, should be taken into account and happen in the real world as soon as possible in order to help out the farmers.” 

The team thanked West Ranch math teacher Michelle McCormick and their mentor from the  Actuarial Foundation, Andrew Poulliot.   

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