– March 14 celebration included free t-shirts, pizza-eating contest in MSC Nosh
PHOTO: A crowd attended the UMSL Math Club’s annual Pi Day celebration March 14. Photo by Heather Welborn for The Current 2014 ©

By Heather Welborn, Features Editor for The Current

Brian Pickens, junior, engineering (pi shirt) and Omar Ismail, freshman, computer science, who is reciting 697 digits of pi. Photo by Heather Welborn for The Current 2014 (c)

The Math Club hosted its annual Pi Day celebration in the Nosh of the Millennium Student Center on March 13. Students stood in a sizable line to participate in numerically based activities for free t-shirts commemorating the event.

Pi Day is observed across the nation each year on March 14, a date that coincides with the pi shorthand of 3.14. The celebration raises awareness of the importance and relevance of math in everyday life. Pi Day has increased in popularity in recent years, notably on social media. Pie eating is among the most popular and accessible ways to celebrate.

Math Club members handed out t-shirts to students who took a shot at guessing how many pieces of circular candy filled a small glass jar. Pencils bearing the many integers past pi’s decimal were offered to participants, as well. A few dedicated students took a shot at reciting as many post-decimal digits of pi as they could from memory.

Sean Horan, graduate student, math, won the pizza eating contest at the Math Club’s annual Pi Day celebration on March 14. Photo by Heather Welborn for The Current 2014 (c)

Pi is defined as the ratio between the distance around and across a perfect circle. The mathematical constant is used to calculate an array of scientific data, ranging from circular area to spherical volume. Because pi is an irrational number, it goes on infinitely after the decimal, without pattern or repetition. According to piday.org, over one trillion digits of pi have been calculated past its decimal point.

Club member Brian Pickens, junior, electrical engineering, followed along a multi-sheet print-out of pi decimal expansion as Omar Ismali, freshman, computer science, made his attempt. Ismali reached an impressive 697 digits before stopping, without error. He said he studied pi decimal expansion for about a month on his tablet as practice. Last year’s winner made it upwards of 800 integers.

At 12:30 p.m., a handful of students participated in a pizza-eating contest. Students were instructed to eat as many slices of cheese or pepperoni pizza as they could within 3.14 minutes. The pizza had to be consumed a single slice at a time, crust included. Sean Horan, graduate, mathematics, won the competition after eating four slices. Horan was awarded an etched glass from Pi, the upscale pizzeria known for its deep-dish style and local ingredients.

Nilla Bartko, graduate, mathematics, and club member assisting with the event, says Pi Day is an excellent way to showcase the lighter side of math to students. Bartko discussed the relevance of pi to the sciences, saying that most biological processes with wave and periodicity can be expressed with pi. In trigonometry and above, angles are expressed as radians, derived from pi, instead of degrees.

“Pi is essential to how we communicate and use angles in engineering,” Bartko said.

©  The Current 2014