Students go head-to-head at DataFest

By Ryan Connelly

Students in the College of Business Administration at the 2019 DataFest compeition on April 12. 

On April 12-14, Rider’s College of Business Administration hosted the American Statistical Association DataFest competition. 

The event took multiple days to complete and the competition allows students to deal with real world business analytical issues. Students gathered in teams to work on analyzing complex data from a real company and were required to put together a presentation to be presented before a panel of judges. 

“DataFest is a nationally coordinated challenge,” said Lan Nygren, associate dean for undergraduate programs. “It runs every spring on multiple campuses in the U.S., Canada and Germany. This year the data is provided by a real life organization. Students work in teams to attack large, complex datasets with business problems provided by the organization they want students to address based on the data. The datasource is not revealed until the first night of the competition.”

Other DataFest events are held at different locations throughout the world. Rider is the only local host. 

“Although I did not attend DataFest, I think it’s a great way for students to gain field experience,” said junior business analytics major, Matthew Kelty. “Meeting with people in the industry and having them mentor students is a great way to network and helpful for getting a job after graduation.” 

  Over 80 other schools worldwide also held DataFest. However, each school has a different time frame in which the competition takes place. Therefore, the name of the organization providing the datasets and problems cannot be released. 

“With all of the datasets, the students have too form a hypothesis they want to address and then they have to analyze the data to see if the data supports or does not support that hypothesis,” said Nygren. “It’s an engaged learning experience because its a project that’s much more complex than a regular classroom project. Being its provided by a real-life organization, the data is much more complex than regular classroom datasets.”

Even though this 48-hour event was rigorous, the students were not alone during their tasks. 

“Students felt it’s very challenging but it’s also very rewarding,” said Nygren. “Another very important piece about this is there are a lot of assistants on site. We have mentors scheduled all throughout the weekends starting Friday evening.” 

Other universities, such as Columbia, Villanova, UCLA and Duke all participate in hosting DataFest. 

Winning first place and best business presentation was team Ninja. Who consisted of senior information systems major, Jannatul Nayeem, junior accounting major Nicole Briones, senior accounting major Angela Cotugno, sophomore accounting major Norma Nieves and junior global supply chain management major Jaquelyne Sapon-Maldonado. 

“We have a panel of industry judges, they selected the winners,” said Nygren. “Each team gets a six minute presentation and three minutes of question and answers with the judges. The judging criteria is based on technical analysis, visualization, presentation, innovation and creativity. These are the main factors and how the winners are decided.” 

Netelixir, a retail search marketing agency,  is a main sponsor of this event and was the reason there were cash prizes for winners. Along with Google and the American Statistical Association (ASA) who were sponsors of this event as well. 

“There are multiple benefits,” said Nygren. “First they get to work on a very large complex project involving data, which enhances their analytical skills, of course. They also got to develop a holistic set of skill sets not just analytical, including communication, teamwork and working under high pressure in a short turnaround time. All these skills are very highly valued by employers, and this is a very good story to tell at future interviews.” 

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