Simpson Students Capture Innovation Award for Crime-Fighting App

Simpson College is home of the Student Innovators of the Year in Iowa.

Scott Henry and Thomas Klein captured the Prometheus Award for their work in developing a phone app through the EMERGE@Simpson program.

The Prometheus Awards, described as “Iowa’s premier event for technology,” are sponsored by The Technology Association of Iowa.

The association’s recognition confirms the message that Simpson has been sending to prospective students and anyone interested in technology and entrepreneurship: Why wait until graduation when you can develop your ideas today in a supportive campus setting?

“Our team went up against the best Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI had to offer and won,” said Chris Draper, director of EMERGE@Simpson. “Through EMERGE, I am certain this will be the first of many Simpson teams to compete and win against the best our state has to offer.”

Henry and Klein, along with Henry’s brother, Mike, a Simpson alum, developed the Snitch’n phone app after the idea was proposed by another Simpson student, Emma Negrete.

Snitch’n allows users to scroll through photos of people wanted by police and then send anonymous tips directly to the officer investigating the case.

To read the Des Moines Register’s coverage of the Prometheus Awards:

The Snitch’n phone app also was a finalist for Mobile App of the Year, but that award went to John Deere’s Mobile Data Transfer.

The awards banquet was held April 16 in Des Moines. Representing Simpson were the Henry brothers, Klein, Emma Negrete and her father, John, Draper and Sally Kreamer, director of the Fifth Judicial District’s Department of Correctional Services, which is using the Snitch’n app.

2015 MICS Results

Mark Brodie, Lydia Sinapova and Derek Lyon and 18 students attended the Midwest Instructional Computing Symposium (MICS) on April 10-11. This year’s MICS was held at the University of North Dakota (is that really even in the Midwest?). Despite the best efforts of Minneapolis road construction, rush-hour traffic and snow (!), the 3 vans arrived safely after a 10-hour drive.

In the first session Lydia and Derek gave a tag-team presentation on the undergraduate research in DNA computing which has taken place at Simpson in recent years. Derek explained the intricacies of DNA chemistry to an audience of computer scientists, while Lydia reported the results of student surveys showing which of their skills had been improved by their research experience.

The afternoon featured the poster session, followed by the robotics competition. Ellie Luebbe presented a poster on “Efficient Path Generation to Maximize Data Collection of Multiple Samples using Fluorescence Spectroscopy”. This work was done with Miles Kirts and Eric Marean. Park Mikels presented a poster on “Algorithmic Elimination of Unwanted DNA Hybridization in Complex DNA Mixtures”, co-authored with Geoff Converse and Dakota Spurrier.

Simpson participated in the robotics contest for the first time. In trials the robot performed admirably, but under the pressure of competition it got over-excited and its shot hit the back of the rim. The team of Nate Hayes, Kendra Klocke, Tony Clark, Josh Sutton, Holly Baiotto and Eric Marean worked hard between rounds cajoling, coaxing and coding to get it to improve, but were terminated. Hasta la vista, baby! Although the robot didn’t place, many valuable (and painful) lessons were learned and it was heard saying “I’ll be back” in an ominous tone.

The programming contest took place after dinner and ran for 3 hours. Six Simpson teams entered. The number of teams has increased steadily from two teams in 2010. Programming contests have become an important element of our program – they generate tremendous interest and excitement among students and provide an invaluable opportunity for improving programming and teamwork skills.

The team of Kendra Klocke, Tony Clark and Thomas Klein won 5th place out of 50 teams total, solving 5 out of 7 problems. This was their best finish at MICS. Since Kendra is graduating, Thomas and Tony plan to hold a hackathon to find a new team-member. Applicants should submit their resumes in binary.

The team of Maddie Thomas, Ellie Luebbe and Park Mikels placed 8th, solving 4 problems. This is an excellent performance – it was only their second time at MICS. They have 2 years of eligibility left and gained valuable experience.

The other four teams each solved 2 problems. These teams were: Jacob Williamson, Scott Henry, and Chris Colohan (23rd), Nate Hayes, Jacob Feld and Evan Kimberlin (27th), Teig Loge, Holly Baiotto, and Eric Marean (29th), and Audrey Lovan and Elisa Wildy (30th) . The last 2 teams were competing for the first time. Given that some teams solve no problems at all, this was an impressive result.

The contest finished near midnight. The students were so mentally exhausted that they went to bed immediately and definitely did not stay up until 3am.

The next morning Maddie Thomas presented her paper “Modeling of Linker Stoichiometry for Optimization of DNA Nanostructure Self-Assembly.” The paper described a project done with Esteban Sierra and Blake Tish in Lydia Sinapova’s Algorithms class. The paper was well received and generated a number of questions. Remarkably, Maddie was participating in a rugby tournament in South Dakota the day after MICS! Hopefully rugby won’t damage any of the brain cells needed for programming.

After traveling back by a different route (longer, but with less traffic, it also took about 10 hours), students and faculty returned to Simpson. Everyone had an enjoyable and productive time and expressed a willingness to return (except the robot).

The problems and solutions from the programming contest are available here.

2015-04-09 23.32.35

2015-04-10 14.04.35

2015-04-10 16.24.24

2015-04-10 20.49.18


2015-04-10 22.08.04

2015-04-10 22.08.12

2015-04-10 22.08.21

2015-04-10 22.08.41

Food For Thoughts: Selling Products to American and French Audiences

Professeure Sutton‘s French 111 class has been exploring the topic of food from a comparative perspective, contrasting attitudes towards food in France and the US.

In discussions of books such as Bringing Up Bébé and Almost French, the class has found that the French emphasize quality ingredients and associate food with sociability, community identity, and cultural traditions, while Americans often approach food from a more individualistic perspective, even associating foods with moral qualities like “good” and “bad,” and linking individual food choices to a person’s identity and self-perception.

To finish off their unit about food, students came up with their own commercials for food products, which they acted out for their classmates. Then, the whole class had to guess whether the ads were intended for a French or American audience.

To make their guesses, they relied on cultural clues such as the language used to describe the food, the context in which the food appeared, and the effect that the food seemed to have on the people in the commercial. The results were très amusants!

Have a look at two of the commercials the class made. Can you guess which audience–French or American–each commercial aimed to reach? Prepare to be hungry… and to do some cultural exploration!

Publicité 1:


“Mmm, Perkins – quand tous mes rêves se réalisent!” (Mmm, Perkins – when all my dreams come true!)


Publicité 2:


“Tu le mérites… Les petits caramels ne font jamais mal à personne!” (You deserve it… Little candies never hurt anyone!)

Senior Final Presentations

You are invited to attend the final presentations for our students completing senior capstone courses.  Every student with a mathematics or actuarial science major must complete a semester long undergraduate research project or participate in a mathematical internship.  Come see what our mathematics majors have been researching.

Tuesday, April 28, 8:00-10:00am in Carver 231

  • Jess Schultes – Crop Progress and Condition Report
  • Katie Davis – Link Analysis
  • Courtney Sherwood – Early Detection through Gas Flow Modulation in Chemo-Sensory Systems
  • Libby Gleason – Coalitional Games with Transferrable Payoff
  • Lauren Doocy – Self-Organization in Ballpark Waves

MUMS Is This Weekend

You are invited to attend the 12th annual MUMS conference.  The regional conference will feature numerous contributed talks and poster presentations by undergraduates, as well as two plenary talks by Dr. Simmon Donner.  A complete schedule can be found here.

Simpson College is “très branché”

Professor Sutton’s FREN 111 class just put on the world’s best défilé de mode (fashion show).

The winner for “Fiercest Model” was Robertino. He dominated the catwalk!

Designers Zack and Esteban, of the fashion house Maison Catastrophe, presented their muse as he showed off their creations.

Simpson College est très branché (really cool and with it), n’est-ce pas?

March Math-ness: Predict the Perfect NCAA March Madness Bracket

Learn about the mid-term project in Dr. Schellhorn’s Data Science course: Simpson News Center: March Math-ness

ISU Presentation and Workshop

ISU Presentation

Time: Friday, March 20, 3:30 – 4:30 pm, room 231 Carver Science

Title: DNA Nanotechnology: The Programmable Building Block of Life


DNA is a robust, reliable molecule used by cells to encode genes. These genes then directly control the functions of cells. DNA has many advantages for storing information, such as its periodic, helical structure and its well-understood Watson-Crick base pair formation. In addition to it’s prolific use in nature for storing information, DNA is also useful for creating nanotechnology in the lab. In this talk, we will introduce DNA nanotechnology and its applications. Topics we will cover include DNA Strand Displacement, DNA Tiling, and DNA Origami. We will also discuss current research in DNA Origami being conducted in our lab at Iowa State University.


Divita Mathur. Divita is a PhD student in the Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Program at Iowa State. Her interests lie in harnessing the potential of DNA as a building material to make small (really small!) nanomachines. She believes that DNA not only holds the instruction manual for all life on Earth, but possesses the power to be a great ingredient to create useful shapes at the nanoscale. Her work focusses on finding new ways of DNA self-assembly, application of DNA nanostructures and understanding programming with DNA.

Brian Nakayama. Brian is a PhD student in the Computer Science Department at Iowa State. His research focuses on applying computational theory and methods on DNA nanosystems. He is often fascinated by the computations intrinsic to biological life, and he enjoys the interdisciplinary field of DNA nanotechnology. He believes there are a lot of open opportunities in the field for new researchers, and he is excited to share his passion for DNA nanotech with curious students.

Workshop with ISU on modeling Chemical Reactions Networks

Wednesday April 8

4 pm – 7 pm in Carver 233/233A

Titus Klinge and James Lathrop

Iowa State University

Laboratory for Molecular Programming (LAMP)

Biochemical Reaction Networks (BRNs) are often used to describe systems of chemical reactions and the rules by which the reactants combine and form product chemicals. It has recently been discovered that arbitrary BRNs may be realized by DNA nanostructures and thus allowing programmers to create BRN programs that compute with matter. In this hand-on workshop participants will learn to use Matlab and the SimBiology package to enter and simulate BRNs. Participants will further learn how to build BRNs to compute some common functions found in computer science. If time permits, participants will learn the basic ideas behind verification and will use the SMART verification tool to verify a few simple properties of a BRN.

PiK Run is Tonight!

You are invited to come to the second annual PiK Run!

When: Monday March, 16th at 7:00pm

What: 3.14 kilometer run (about 2 miles)

Where: The run begins and ends at Carver Science

  • FREE pie from Funaro’s to eat following the run
  • Gift Cards to Funaro’s for winners!
    • 1st place: $30
    • 2nd place: $20
    • 3rd place: $10

Sponsored by the Math Club and the Triathlon Club

Funded by SGA

“The Suit Song” in French!

Have you have heard of “The Suit Song”? It’s the song that Barney Stinson sings on How I Met Your Mother to extol the virtues of formal dress for men. It’s ridiculous and hilarious. Enjoy it here.

Well, Prof. Sutton’s French 111 class has a couple of versions of their own!

In class, we did a Battle of the Suits, wherein the women and men divided into separate groups to write songs about the superiority of the “complet” (men’s suit) or the “tailleur” (women’s suit).

Then our very own class member and opera singer Zack Brown put the songs to music. The results are amazing…and much more élégant than even Barney could ever be!

Version 1: “La chanson du tailleur” (The Song of the Women’s Suit)

Video here:

Lyrics (by Kayley Zimmerman, Kelsie Tomlin, Kelsey Walkup, Briza Flores, and Valeria Trabattoni):

Le tailleur

C’est le meilleur

Parce que seulement les jeunes qui s’amusent le portent


Qui sont ennuyeux

Ne reconnaissent pas

La haute couture

Parce que la femme a changé le style du tailleur

Pour se voir meilleur


Version 2: “La chanson du complet” (The Song of the Man’s Suit)

Video here:

Lyrics (by Spencer Hook, Robert King, Zack Brown, and Esteban Sierra):

Ne pas porter un polo

Ne pas porter une robe

Si vous voulez être élégant

Portez le complet avec les gants

Les hommes portaient le complet premier

Votre tailleur vous fait ressembler ma vieille grand-mère

Mon complet est plus que ton tailleur

Je me vois comme un homme et tu te vois comme une fleur

There are some amazingly talented writers and performers at Simpson – and we are lucky to have some of them in our French classes!