Virtual Model Camp 2020

This Modelling Camp will have 3 main aims:
  1. To train students and early career mathematical science researchers to engage in study groups and similar activities
  2. To offer broader skills training - team-working, coping outside of one's comfort zone, introduction to modelling methodology, report writing, and enhancing communication/presentation skills
  3. To learn how different branches of mathematics can be applied in various industrial settings.


The Modelling Camp will be held at online. We will amend the programme to account for the different challenges of running the event on line.


The Modelling Camp will last for 3.5 days (Tuesday 19 May - Friday 22 May)
The first day (Tuesday) will include a half-day of 'scene setting' and presentation of the industrial problems for consideration.  The cohort will then split into the appropriate number of groups (depending on final number of problems covered).   Groups will work on the problems over the next 2.5 days, assisted by the instructors and additional support.  On the final morning (Friday) there will be a 'wash up' session were results will be presented.

Considerations for Virtual Event

We anticipate the Tuesday to be a full day. Once groups are formed there is scope for each group to set its own timetable. There will be flexibility for people to spend time away from the screen etc. The times when we expect everyone to attend, and the problem overview/group forming on Day1, the catch up sessions on Day1, Day 2 and Day 3 and the final presentations on Day 4. We are also considering including an optional social activity in the programme.

There has been some similar activities on-line at ICMS recently, and we have used these to inform the planning. We will make a variety of on-line tools available to assist the collaborative working in this. These include, Mural, HackMD, Whiteboard and filesharing tools. No prior knowledge is required.

It is necessary to manage the participant numbers at modelling camp events. This event is for MAC-MIGS first year students and second year Industry stream students. These students will be contacted directly with joining instructions. If you are interested in joining but are NOT part of this group, please contact

Modelling Camp Programme

Tuesday 19 May 2020


Welcome and Scene Setting


Problem Overviews


Tools Practice & Group Forming


Group Working (including lunch break)


Day 1 catch up (5 minutes per group)


Group Working


Wednesday 20 May 2020


Group Working (Rooms availabe from 08:30)

15:30- 16:10

Day 2 Wash Up (10 minutes per group)

 16:10 onward

Group Working


Thursday 21 May 2020


Group Working (Rooms availabe from 08:30)

15:30- 15:40

Day 2 Wash Up (5 minutes per group)

15:40 onward

Group Working


 Optional Social Activity - watch this space!


Friday 22 May 2020



Group Working (Rooms availabe from 08:30)


Group Presentations (30 mins MAX including questions)


Final Wrap Up

Problem Description

Problem 1 Coffee

Problem Owner – William Lee (Huddersfield)

A recent experiment on coffee brewing showed the surprising result that grinding coffee coarser may result in increasing coffee extraction. A non-technical summary is available here and the paper is here, (see especially figure 4).

This result appears to show that as coffee is ground more finely extraction only occurs from some fraction of the coffee bed. The group is asked to investigate the possibility that this could be explained by a flow reaction instability in which a positive feedback between faster flow and faster dissolution results in only a fraction of the coffee bed is available for extraction. I would suggest that the group sets up a toy model in which there are two possible paths for flow and extraction and investigates instability in this model, however I would be very happy if the group wanted to explore alternative formulations of the problem. Alternatively if the group came up with and modelled an alternative mechanism that would also be great. 
If time, I would also be interested in whether the group could estimate the potential savings that the UK coffee industry could potentially realise by exploiting this result. 

Problem 2 – Tugboats

Problem Owner – Graham Benham (Cambridge)

Optimal ship berthing strategies to reduce tugboat fuel consumption: In ports all across the world, large freight ships must be pulled into harbours by smaller tugboats. The pulling strategy/trajectory is chosen to keep fuel consumption low, both for environmental and cost reasons, whilst also staying within the safety standards. In this challenge we will use mathematical modelling to study how to use tugboats to pull a large boat into a given harbour space using the minimum amount of fuel possible.

Problem 3 – Bad Vibrations

Problem Owner Poul Hjorth (Technical University of Denmark)

This problem is about vibrations. In agriculture, particularly in the production of grains and seeds, there is a need after harvesting to clean the product; i.e., remove irregular elements (bits of weed, twigs, etc) dispersed in the raw product.   The standard procedure for doing this, used since the dawn of agriculture, is to shake the product in a sieve with suitable mesh size, so that the desired seeds or grains will just pass through the mesh, but the impurities will not.  When this is done on an industrial scale, however, and with heavy machinery driving large heavy sieves, there are unwanted effects. The vibrations travel through the support and the foundation, often causing cracks, even breakdown of structure, nearby. 

The tasks for the group are the following:

(1) Provide a sample calculation scheme to estimate the forces acting on the support of the sieve setup

(2) Propose means of avoiding the problem while maintaning the operating conditions for the production.