DataFest: Big Data, Big Learning, Big Fun

May 2016

From 6 p.m. on Friday April 29th until 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1st, fifty students from three Ohio universities participated in a nationwide data analytics competition known as DataFest.

Hosted by Miami University’s Center for Analytics and Data Science, 12 teams from Miami University, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Cincinnati analyzed three data sets provided by Ticketmaster, searching for insights into pricing, web-based advertising, and customer segmentation. Working with more than 3GB of data, the teams spent their weekend applying their data science skills to real data in a friendly, but competitive environment. More than 20 volunteers from Miami University’s departments of Information Systems & Analytics, Statistics, and Marketing powered the event. Incoming President Gregory Crawford and his wife Renate even stopped by to chat with students.

Tom Fisher, the chair of the local planning committee said, “Datafest is a unique experience for students to be exposed to big data on a grand scale. With millions of rows of data, it’s bigger than any project they’ll encounter within class and I’m so proud of the students’ hard work.”

The students were able to hone their skills in programming, data management, data modeling, and data visualization. According to senior Michael Creutzinger, mathematics and statistics major, “When you are in class working with R-Studio, it’s in a very controlled manner. Whereas Datafest allowed us to get down and dirty with the data by having to figure it out and learn the syntax ourselves.”

After hours of pouring over the data and refining their story, the teams presented a one-page summary, three slides or a dashboard, and gave an eight minute presentation to four industry judges. The judges, who traveled into Oxford from four states, included Meg Walters, Data Scientist at Allstate, Gary Cao, Executive Leader in Business Analytics at Cardinal Health, James Correa, Sr. Manager-Analytics at IBM, and Michael Alton, data scientist at EY. James Correa from IBM commended competitions like Datafest, because they “prepare the students for a real life understanding of data. By putting things in a time box, we really drive the importance of time to value. Today, opportunities present themselves very quickly, the window is small, so you need to be able to capitalize on the insight to improve outcomes fast.”

The prize winning teams include the following: Best in Show - From Miami University, Data Scrubs: Ben Smith, Bob Krueger, Bri Clements, Katherine Shockey, and Robert Garrett presented on marketing and price optimization of ticket sales and looked into the ticket price ratio. Best Insight - From the University of Cincinnati, The Datacats: Adam Reichert, Ben Nolan, Brady Ramsaur, Cassandra Gleason, and Yianni Kanellopoulos answered the question “What are the different customers of Ticketmaster and what events should we suggest that they go to?” Best Visualization - From Miami University, Make America Statistically Significant Again: Alan Tatro, Cody Philips, Heather Mathews, Michael Macey, and Mickey Whitford built a Shiny app to display price optimization and the effectiveness of adwords campaigns by state and by advertising method.

Miami University’s Center for Analytics and Data Science will be hosting DataFest 2017 April 7-9, 2017. Junior accounting and French major with a minor in analytics, Michael Baader, will be back next year stating, “Datafest was a great way to apply what you learned in class to a real world problem with professors and industry experts helping throughout the competition.”