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Tropical Curves Max B. Kutler ’11, advised by mathematics Professor Dagan Karp and University of Texas at Austin Professor Eric Katz, discussed his work on tropical algebraic geometry, a new area of mathematics. In part due to its close ties to other fields—includ- ing classical algebraic geometry, graph theory and combinator- ics—tropical geometry has become an active area of research over the past two decades. Researchers in this field use an alternate no- tion of the basic operations of addition and multiplication, and study how this affects the geometry of objects that are defined by polynomial equations. Kutler studied tropical curves, and group actions and divisors on the tropical curve. He found new infor- mation about the structure of the group of divisors, which could potentially play an important role in this young field.


team’s design modified an existing tool, which was so successful a provisional patent is underway. Their portable, cheaper, light- weight, more ergonomic solution has durable blades that are quick to change and sterilize. The tool’s adjustable angles allow several different kinds of grafts. An improved tool could expedite the creation of more plants to better feed growing populations. Valerie Loew from the Fullerton College Horticulture Depart- ment lent her expertise as the project client.


Set It, and Forget It Two Engineering 4 teams worked on the design of a year-round, convenient, “set and forget” solution to combat mice infesta- tion, which can present a significant health hazard, particu- larly in summer homes, cabins and camps in rural areas. The device, designed by Josh Edelman ’14, Stephen Pinto ’14, Jean-Claude de Sugny ’14 and Michelle Liu ’14, is a mouse repellent dispensary system that employs a mem- brane design to dispense coyote urine pellets in one- ounce doses every two months. Client Mark Howard requested that the device be economical, low-mainte- nance, easy to use, small, lightweight and durable. The device also must withstand sub-freezing conditions and must not kill the mice or use messy liquid repellent. The team concluded that dispensers would be needed through- out a home to adequately control the mice population.


A better plant grafting tool, like the HMC students’ design, could improve plant production.


A Better Grafting Tool


A plant grafting tool is an essential part of a grower’s toolkit. It allows users to attach a stem cutting of one plant to the strong root system of another to get an exact genetic match of a fruit or flower. This is especially helpful in getting fruits that taste exactly as they should from generation to generation. The Engineering 4 team of James Best ’14, Kate Kryder ’14, Kyle Siegel ’14 and Abe McKay ’14 was one of three teams that designed an improved plant grafting tool. Designs addressed the challenges faced with current tools on the market: bulky designs, pricey blades, steril- ization challenges and dullness. The Best-Krider-Siegal-McKay


STEVE SCHENCK


Critical Issues Through the required Critical Inquiry class, second-se- mester first-year students explored social, political and economic issues—echoing the College’s mission to create socially conscious and responsible scientists, mathemati- cians and engineers.


Beverly Yeh ’11 looked at the effect of video games from a unique perspective: that is, their ability to promote pro-social behavior. She used primary psychological research to evaluate the accuracy of this claim about video games. She argued that pro- social video games, in which the player helps other characters in the game—such as City Crisis, a rescue helicopter pilot game, and Nintendogs, a virtual pet simulation game—are linked to “helping” behavior and feelings of empathy. Yeh reported that people who play pro-social video games are more likely to help others, even when doing so is personally risky, compared to peo- ple who do not play pro-social video games. Yeh’s advisor was psychology Professor Debra Mashek.


SUMMER 2011 Har vey Mudd College


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