Celebrating Pi Day

Hands-free pie eating competitors (from left) Aidan Mancuso, Lily Clough, and Isaac Smith gobble up chocolate pudding pies during the Youngsville Elementary Middle School Pi Day celebration.

March 14 — 3/14 — is Pi (3.14) Day.

At Youngsville Elementary Middle School, the Pi Day festivities included pi-related events and pie-related events.

“We have brought together the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. We have individuals and teams reciting the digits of pi,” co-organizer math teacher Sarah Dwyer said. “We have students eating pie, no hands, and gently pieing teachers and another student in the face.”

There was also a fund-raising pie baking competition.

The winning recitation team — Lily Clough, Lydia Camp and Aurora Dougherty — hit 162 digits.

The individual champion was Loral-Li Shenk with 104.

Her winning effort started with Pi Day 2017.

“I started (memorizing digits) last year,” Shenk said. “I watched everybody recite it and I was like, ‘That is so cool.'”

She admired the students’ memory skills and their ability to stand up and speak in front of the crowd. “I have stage fright,” Shenk said. “I was shaking.”

“During the summer, I decided I would practice some of it,” Shenk said.

She had it up to about 50 decimal places, but her efforts trailed off, and didn’t start up again until Thanksgiving — when eating pie reminded her.

She found the digits online and started practicing. “My friends would help me learn my digits,” she said. “They gave me a lot of inspiration.”

By Tuesday, Shenk was at 93, which would have won the competition. But that wasn’t enough.

“I wanted to have 100 down before Pi Day,” she said. “I thought 100 would be quite an accomplishment.”

“I thought back to the Marc Mero presentation,” Shenk said. “I wrote a sticky note and put it on my phone.”

Every time she looked at her phone, she was reminded that she wanted to memorize more digits.

She made it to 100… 104 to be exact. “Who’s counting?” she said.

After that, Isaac Smith edged Lily Clough and Aidan Manuso in hands-free chocolate pudding pie eating. Smith received a jar of chocolate pudding as a prize.

They voluntarily got pie in their faces.

Then, the ‘winners’ of the pie-in-the-face voting donned garbage bag ponchos and took their places.

“Students picked who would be getting pie in the face,” Dwyer said.

They voted in Dwyer, Kim Tridico, and Jenny Watt from among the teachers who volunteered, and eighth-grader Lily Lindell from among the students who put their names in.

Students Justin McGranaghan, Kenzie Olewine, Zaylee Cressley, and Maddie VanGuilder were selected to pie the faces.

Some students took three trips through the pies donated by local restaurants and created by students and families. Funds raised during the event will benefit the graduating eighth-grade class celebration.

The pies were a convenient instrument to help students enjoy their math event.

“It’s an exciting way to celebrate math and make it fun and engaging for students,” co-organizer Ashley Peterson said.

“Students will be able to use pi in their everyday lives for projects around the house and possibly in their future careers,” Dwyer said.

But, they might not need to know as many digits as Shenk.

In 2016, a high-ranking NASA rocket scientist publicly stated that the agency used 15 digits of pi for “interplanetary navigation.”

“For JPL’s (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) highest accuracy calculations, which are for interplanetary navigation, we use 3.141592653589793,” Marc Rayman said.

He said, given the exact diameter (which would be close to 46 billion light years) of a circle the size of the universe, it would take “39 or 40” places to accurately determine the circumference to within the diameter of a hydrogen atom.

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