It had come down to one final integral.
At the chalkboard on the left, Justin Brereton was rushing through the equation as if a bomb were about to go off. On the right, Praveen Venkataramana was calmly mumbling to himself.
Between them, on a desk in a lecture hall below the Great Dome at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sat the wizard’s hat. The first student to solve the problem correctly would get the hat and the grandiose title that comes with it: The Grand Integrator.
At MIT, the annual Integration Bee, which began two decades ago as one of the many quirky diversions during the school’s January independent study period, has grown into something more. At a school without a traditional “Big Man on Campus,’’ becoming Grand Integrator, some say, is the closest thing to it.