Data & Analytics

Duke Wraps Fourth Annual DataFest Stats Competition

Duke University held ASA DataFest 2015 March 20-22, 2015. It was the university's fourth-annual 48-hour statistics and data analysis competition.

More than 220 students from multiple universities and a variety of academic disciplines competed in teams of two to five students. When the competition began at 6 p.m. on Friday night, each team was presented with a single data set, which consisted of five tables and millions of rows of visitor information from a comparison shopping site. Consultants from businesses and area schools were on hand to answer questions. The teams had until 5 p.m. on Sunday to identify and communicate insights into the data and present their ideas to the judges. Prizes were awarded for best visualization, best insight and best use of outside data.

The team that won for best visualization developed a flow diagram and network graph to help the company target its advertising based on trends in customer preferences. The team that won for best insight found a way to help the company identify customers likely to spend more than they planned based on their demographics and Web browsing behavior. The team that won for best use of outside data combined their assigned data set with outside data on political preferences to find out if people from left- or right-leaning cities were more likely to buy environmentally friendly products.

The competition fostered interdisciplinary collaboration between students from diverse fields such as economics, sociology, political science, math and engineering, in addition to statistics, according to Justin Yu, a participant in the competition. For many of the students, it was their first time working with real-world data sets.

"In most courses, the problems are guided and it is very clear what you need to accomplish and how," said Tori Hall, a junior at Duke, in a prepared statement. "DataFest is much more like the real world, where you’re given data and have to find your own way to produce something meaningful."

ASA DataFest 2015 was organized by the by the Department of Statistical Science at Duke University and co-hosted by the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at the University of North Carolina and Department of Statistics at North Carolina State University.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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