Picture a corporate board room. It’s your day to present. People are seated. All eyes are on you. Executives’ eyes are on you. You were given a problem, told to figure it out, and come up with a solution.

If you are a computational modeling and data analytics (CMDA) major in the College of Science at Virginia Tech’s Academy of Integrated Science program, you won’t have to imagine this scene. Before you graduate, you’ll have to do it.

The CMDA major has a long name and a bigger mission: Infuse undergraduate students with a blend of skills from computer science, statistics, and mathematics, enabling them to not just understand the world’s biggest challenges but to use data to identify solutions.

“Real world” challenges mandate a “real world” test. So, before CMDA students walk away from Virginia Tech with a degree, Mark Embree, the Department of Mathematics professor who leads the CMDA program, has them form teams to tackle a problem. It’s a real issue that a company or government agency is wrestling with. The student teams research the issue and develop solutions. Then they present the results to their colleagues and, yes, even a few corporate executives.

At the end of last semester, 24 teams presented the results of their capstone projects. We followed one team, for their moment in front of the board room.

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