La Salle College Clinches Gold at the 2018 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards

Feature Story | Jan 1, 2019

Can a prescribed trapezoid be inscribed in a given Jordan curve?  Through his study of the famous Trapezoidal Peg Problem, Bai Zhiyuan from La Salle College won the 2018 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards (HLMA) Gold Award.

Over 50 students, teachers, and school principals gathered at the prestigious 2018 HLMA Awards Presentation Ceremony on December 20 (Thursday) at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, with The Hon Mrs. Carrie Lam, The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as the officiating guest. She presented the Gold Award trophy to Zhiyuan, a Form Six student, for his research paper titled, “On the Trapezoidal Peg Problem among Convex Curves”. Zhiyuan won the Gold Award after going through stringent reviews and attending an Oral Defense in front of world renowned mathematicians of the HLMA Scientific Committee.

Zhiyuan’s research in the Trapezoidal Peg Problem is one of the generalizations of the famous Square Peg Problem.  It is to find a fixed trapezoid with four corners lying on an arbitrary curve loop.  He investigated a possible approach by first weakening the similarity condition and showed that there are infinitely many possibilities. Then, through further analysis of the possibilities, he exhibited a unique result which allows only translation and "stretching" on the trapezoid.  He subsequently obtained a necessary and sufficient condition for a strictly convex C1 curve, which he called “oval”, to inscribe an arbitrary trapezoid up to similarity.

Zhiyuan has been interested in mathematics since early childhood. “When dealing with carefully crafted mathematical challenges, I often find that solutions are simple and elegant. Mathematics has always led me to such elegant insights when I look for solutions,” he said. “Participating in the HLMA has offered me a chance to present my research findings to world renowned scholars, and I have learned a lot in the process.”

Nurturing Great Talents for the Future

Mr. Weber Lo, Chief Executive Officer of Hang Lung Properties, said, “Today marks the eighth occasion that we have organized this mathematics research competition with The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) for secondary school students. We Do It Right is our business philosophy and this extends to all aspects of our work, including corporate social responsibility. HLMA is our longest community investment initiative for youth and it aligns with the government policy for promoting STEM education. Through this Award, we aim to cultivate our young people’s interest in mathematics and to nurture a pool of talents, which would ultimately enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong.”

Mrs. Carrie Lam attended the ceremony as guest of honor for the third time. With a mathematician husband, Mrs. Lam quipped that she dared not say too much in front of him, but stressed that today’s innovations in technology are driving changes in ways that we have never imagined, and that changes are occurring at every level of our economy and society. If Hong Kong is to continue to flourish, we must ensure that young people are given every opportunity to succeed and every opportunity to tackle real life challenges with innovative ideas and analytical grounding, she added. Therefore, her government has been putting great effort into promoting STEM education and academic research development.

This year, a total of 260 students forming over 90 teams from over 60 schools entered the competition. A record high of 27 individual entries were received. 15 shortlisted teams were invited to attend the Oral Defense and make their final presentations at Hang Lung’s headquarters on the day before the ceremony (December 19). A total of HK$1 million in prize money was presented to the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards winners, and five Honorable Mentions.

HLMA is organized by Hang Lung Properties in conjunction with The Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Department of Mathematics of CUHK. Since 2004, this biannual competition has attracted over 2,000 students, and has awarded a total of HK$8 million in prize money.

Showcasing Exceptional Quality of Students in Hong Kong

Professor Xin Zhouping, Chair of the 2018 HLMA Scientific Committee, was thrilled to meet with students who are so passionate about mathematics. “It is truly incredible for them to have dedicated so much effort to mathematical research. The research reports submitted by the participating teams demonstrate their creativity, originality, and ability to conduct mathematical analysis to a remarkable level. I hope that, no matter whether they win an award in the HLMA this time or not, they can sustain their passion for exploring mathematics, constantly striving for society’s future technological advancement.”

Apart from congratulating all students for their exceptional work, Professor Cheng Shiuyuen, Chair of the 2018 HLMA Steering Committee, praised participating students for their attitude of not evading difficult tasks, and urged students in Hong Kong to set high goals for themselves, and use their talents to make the world a better place.

First HLMA Winner Shares his Mathematics Journey to Neuroscience

This year, a special dialogue was arranged between Mr. Adriel Chan, Executive Director of Hang Lung Properties and Dr. Owen Ko, a 2004 HLMA winner and currently an Assistant Professor of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics and School of Biomedical Sciences at CUHK. Dr. Ko shared how HLMA influenced his career choice in medical research. He understands the contributions which mathematics make to medical developments, and turned his childhood interest in mathematics and biomedical science into a passion for neuroscience – regarded as the most quantitative of all medical fields.

Dr. Ko shared his own experiences and encouraged students to put their passion first. He also echoed Professor Cheng Shiuyuen that one needs not be a genius to make significant contributions to the world. “Being a scientist is not just sitting there solving hard problems or hiding in a lab. It is about nurturing the next generation, teaching young talents, and sharing knowledge with other people so that we can achieve a better world,” he said.

Discovering the Joy of Mathematics

HLMA encourages secondary school students to realize their creative potential in the study of mathematics by stimulating their passion for intellectual discovery in hope that Hong Kong students will use their knowledge in mathematics and sciences for the enrichment of society. To further promote mathematics to the public, the Company has launched the Facebook fan page “HLMA – To Infinity”. This page shares tips that illustrate how mathematics is applicable in our daily lives and adopts a lively approach designed to raise public interest in mathematics.

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