Miami hosts national data analytics competition

Written by Grace Vaillancourt

From 6 p.m. on Friday April 29th until 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1st, 50 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.

Students discuss their strategy at DataFest 2016.

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's Departments of Information Systems & Analytics, Statistics, and Marketing powered the event. Incoming university president Gregory Crawford and his wife Renate even stopped by to chat with students.

"DataFest is a unique experience for students to be exposed to big data on a grand scale," said Tom Fisher, the chair of the local planning committee. "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 mathematics and statistics major Michael Creutzinger, "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 along with three slides or a dashboard and gave an 8-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
  • Michael Alton, data scientist at EY

Correa 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 prizewinning teams included:

Best in Show

Data Scrubs (Miami University) presented on marketing and price optimization of ticket sales and looked into the ticket price ratio. Team members were:

  • Ben Smith
  • Bob Krueger
  • Bri Clements
  • Katherine Shockey
  • Robert Garrett

Best Insight

The Datacats (University of Cincinnati) answered the question "What are the different customers of Ticketmaster and what events should we suggest that they go to?"

  • Adam Reichert
  • Ben Nolan
  • Brady Ramsaur
  • Cassandra Gleason
  • Yianni Kanellopoulos

Best Visualization

Make America Statistically Significant Again (Miami University) built a Shiny app to display price optimization and the effectiveness of ad-words campaigns by state and by advertising method. Their members were:

  • Alan Tatro
  • Cody Philips
  • Heather Mathews
  • Michael Macey
  • Mickey Whitford

Michael Baader, a junior accounting and French major with a minor in analytics, will be back next year. He said, "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."

Miami University's Center for Analytics and Data Science will again host DataFest on April 7-9, 2017.