Bongbonga Makes Waves in Math and Music

Megan Schendel , School Editor

     Senior Angelo Bongbonga has had a passion for mathematics and music from a young age. He began pursuing math and music in middle school and has since begun working on numerous projects including writing a math proof, a musical and producing albums for a band that he is in.

    “Over the past few months, I’m working towards getting a music album done for a band I’m in, composed of fellow high school students, called Monky Funk. I’ve also been doing some writing of my own songs for the past few years and have been trying to write a musical this past year. I’ve also been working towards writing a math proof,” said Bongbonga.

    Bongbonga has always had a natural gift when it comes to learning, especially in math. He is able to pick up on things fairly easy and strives to learn more. “I would describe myself as pretty active. In general, as a learner, I try to figure these things out on my own and try to just explore,” said Bongbonga. Calculus teacher Patrick Riehle added, “If I had to pick one word to describe Angelo, it would be curious.  In many subject areas, not just math, Angelo is an extraordinarily curious student. He lets his curiosity run wild sometimes and it’s really cool seeing the conclusions he is able to come to. Within our math class, Angelo is always thinking about where the math is leading us as well as how it connects to other fields.”

    Bongbonga has been in the Math Club for all four years of high school. He has also taken a majority of the math classes offered at MHS and is currently in Calculus 3, the highest level of calculus at MHS. “Angelo has a gift for seeing patterns in the math. I still remember working on some sample problems for competition one year — Angelo solved a problem in 30 seconds that had a seven minute allotment for a team of three. Mr. Yoneshige and I, and the other students, were astounded not only at the speed, but at the elegance of his solution when he explained it,” said Math Club supervisor and Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry teacher Terrence Dunford. Riehle added “He has the natural gifts and tools to learn anything I could possibly imagine, so it’s really a question of what Angelo will choose to focus his energy on.”

    Bongbonga is currently working on writing a math proof. He began writing his proof in middle school and has been working on it since then. “Writing a math proof, in some ways, is much like any other scientific method based process.  There is normally a hypothesis or theory that someone is trying to prove as true. While experiments are often used to model or predict what the conclusion will be, a typical mathematical proof does not stop there. There needs to be logical, mathematical justification for the conclusions reached,” said Riehle. Dunford added, “The ability to write a proof requires a true understanding of the mathematics involved. It’s akin to getting from point A to point B without a map — all in your head. Proof writing is about pattern recognition and providing the evidence.”

    Bongbonga came across the idea for his math proof while working on an art project in middle school that involved placing hexagons on a plane. His proof focuses on making unique connections between sides, which he uses dots to represent, and why it is impossible to do so with some even numbers. “If you have some number of dots — I want a way to pair every point together. One of the pairs needs to be straight across and another pair needs to be right next to and another pair needs to be one over, but we can’t use the same dot twice. The question is whether a solution like the one that can be found with eight where there is a pair one away, adjacent, across and two away, is possible for some even number of dots,” said Bongbonga. “I would like to find a way to prove whether it has a solution and figure out if there is more than one solution for any random number of even dots.” Riehle added, “I was impressed at how motivated he was to proof something mathematically, and it involved levels of math that I haven’t studied since college.  I was blown away, in a very positive way, by the lengths he had already gotten to in his work.”

    Though Bongbonga still has a lot of work to do on his proof, he is hopeful that he will be able to discover a more efficient way of looking at the problem so that he can finish it. “I want to ultimately publish my proof in a journal. I assume that perhaps this could have relations to some other fields of mathematics that I wouldn’t know right now. It could prove useful like other proofs. I’m not sure what journal I would publish it in — some math journal, though I’m not really sure right now. That will come later once I actually figure it out,” said Bongbonga.

    Having been a part of First Robotics his freshman year, Bongbonga developed an interest in coding. He learned how to code in the C++ coding language and has continued to develop his skills. “I’ve been teaching myself with online guides how to program. So far, I’ve made a simple calculator, some games — just text based of course. I can’t figure out how to make a windows thing, but I’ll get there I suppose. I’ve been working on logical skills — if and statements,” said Bongbonga.

    Aside from his love for math, Bongbonga also has an affinity for writing music and poetry. Inspired by his peer, Senior Evan Imata, also known as Evan Kepler, Bongbonga began writing in the summer before his freshman year. “I like writing really weird harmonies; that’s what I like about writing with more contemporary, 20th and 21st century, kind of style. I also like just expressing myself with the words,” said Bongbonga. “It’s kind of an outlet and it’s good for hearing things; if I have a melody in my head that I want to write, since I’m in choir, I can use solfège — do, re, me, fa, so stuff, to figure out what that melody is. It just makes the whole music writing process faster.”

    Bongbonga is also working on writing a slice of life, drama musical, which he began in his junior year. He was inspired to begin writing by the installation of the sculpture, Starstruck, in Mililani Town Center, especially after speaking to the artist. “I started writing my own musical about life, living in Mililani. One of the major plot points is the sculpture at Town Center, which I was there for the ceremony of,” said Bongbonga. “For the musical about Mililani Town Center, I’ve written two songs so far. I still need to finish up the drafting page, but two songs are pretty much done.”

    Bongbonga recently joined a band, Monky Funk. Monky Funk is comprised solely of students from MHS. Monky Funk has produced one song thus far and is currently working on producing their first album, hopefully before this school year comes to an end. “They played for me their song and I was like, ‘Yeah, I can work with that. I think I can figure out how to produce that.’ I’m going to be doing production and post-production for them,” said Bongbonga. “Given that I am a poet, I would like to help with lyric writing.”

    Monky Funk’s first album will be released on SoundCloud. You can see more of Bongbonga’s work by checking out his YouTube channel: Plentelle, where he shows his compositions. He will be majoring in math at the U.H. Mānoa starting in the fall; he hopes to be able to use what he learns to help him finish his math proof.