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NREUP 2009

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Title: The Mathematics of LEGOs


  • David Kung
  • Alan Jamieson
  • Casey Douglas


Dates of Program: May 24 - July 7, 2010

Summary: The students participating in this REU will be introduced to two core topics in mathematics, computational geometry and optimization, utilizing a simple child's construction toy to help visualize two sets of distinct problems. The first problem relates to packings, which has a basis in computational geometry, graph theory and algorithms: given a selection of blocks and a two dimensional shape, can we completely fill this shape? From here we can apply a variety of adaptations of the problem including increasing dimension, adding costs, and changing the problem to be closer to the knapsack problem. The second problem relates to the classic Isoperimetric Problem: using a fixed amount of a specific kind of blocks, what is largest number area one can enclose? This problem can be further adapted to include a variety of shapes, changing to look at volume of a three-dimensional region and including costs. The students will study these problems, producing answers to the core questions, possibly via algorithmic results. At the conclusion of the REU, the students will prepare and present 20 minute talks in regards to their progress on these research topics.

Student Researchers Supported by MAA:

  • Thaise Brower
  • Jonathan Espinoza
  • Anika Green
  • Alex Roca
  • Bethany Townsend

Program Contacts:

Bill Hawkins

Michael Pearson
MAA Programs & Services