Clash of tech, spirit


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Computer science major Zehenghui Guo attended the annual MathFest in Chicago to present his research on the efficiency of an independent shipping company.

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

Computer science major Zehenghui Guo single-handedly represented Contra Costa College students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields as he traveled to Chicago over the summer for the national MathFest conference.

Each year the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) hosts the MathFest conference for students in all areas of mathematics to present their own work in person.

This year’s event was held from July 26-29 at the Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

Guo created a poster presentation based on work he did in his Independent Study class, Math 298, about how to use math to analyze real world data.

Through a poster presentation, based on information given to him and his independent study classmates by a mid-sized shipping company, they showed the efficiency of the company’s shipping methods when transferring information to other companies.

“It was nerve-wracking and I was a bit nervous about my project,” Guo said.

“For Independent Study, you don’t have a set structure so there is freedom on how we can attack a problem,” Guo’s Math 298 classmate Israel Condori said. “I think that was really good for him,” .

Condori said there wasn’t a lot of contact with the shipping company and most of the communication was done through email.

Through the data analysis, Guo and his classmates looked at any problems that may arise for the company, Condori said.

“Kevin (Guo) really did a good job in bringing in resources and saying, ‘Hey this is what we can do.’”

Guo said it was through a book about artificial intelligence he found at a local library while living in China that he discovered he wanted to pursue computer science as a major.

“I barely understood the book. I understood the beginning and it seemed so cool to me. I thought — maybe I want to do this.”

He describes his ideal version of artificial intelligence as making a robot that has human-like characteristics.

“It is like making a machine-like human by using calculations,” he said.

Before deciding on which community college to attend, while still living in China, Guo said he heard positive things about CCC through friends who studied at the college.

When coming to CCC at age 17 as an international student in 2016, he said he already knew he wanted to be a computer science major.

“It (science) is astonishing,” he said.

As a computer science major, technology is prime in Guo’s life and part of his daily conversation.

“But if you go to a party and talk to people about math, you’d probably never be invited to a party again,” Guo said as he laughed in his chair.

MathFest allowed undergraduate students like Guo to attend workshops, keynote speeches, poster sessions and other mathematical topics.

Guo was accompanied by his Independent Study math professor Kristin Lassonde on the two-day trip. Lassonde said community college students are underrepresented during these types of events.

Guo said, “Some people asked me if Contra Costa College is a private school. I said no.”

The trip was open to any student in STEM fields in the class who wanted to present their work.

Lassonde said the estimated cost of the trip was $1000 per person, not including food or transportation.

“That is one of the reasons why it is so hard to get students to go to one of these events, because it is so expensive,” she said.

Lassonde said she was excited when Guo told her he wanted to go on the trip to present the work he compiled during her class.

“It was G’s (Guo) first time experiencing Chicago,” she said. “I am tremendously proud and very excited for him to have this experience as a community college student. He was representing not just our college, but community colleges nationwide.”

The conference aims to raise the understanding of mathematics and how it impacts the world through different aspects.

Guo said while at MathFest, surrounded by other like-minded individuals, he felt like there was a mutual connection with other university students who also invest hours of their life learning about math.

“Everyone likes math and it doesn’t feel too weird because sometimes when talking to friends, it feels like they think you are the weird one of the group.

“I think computer science can help you solve problems and to get a better understanding of math,” he said.