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June 6, 2019

DataFest Competition Engages Students Across Disciplines

Two students working together on a laptop for the DataFest competition.

Jacob Pawek (left) and Michael Wooll (right) work to answer challenging questions that can be addressed through data analysis during DataFest.

Students from across disciplines participated in DataFest 2019 hosted by California State University, Chico. This “data hackathon” is a nationally coordinated undergraduate regional competition in which students work in teams over a weekend to gain the best insights into a real-world dataset. On April 7, teams presented their findings to a panel of judges and compete to win prizes in areas such as “best insight,” “best visualization,” and “best use of external data.”

DataFest is part of the Chico State Data Science Initiative (DSI)’s intercollegiate efforts to provide training, foster collaboration, and conduct research in data science and business analytics.

This year, the event saw nearly 50 students registered, with a remarkable diversity of majors including mathematics and statistics, computer science, business, and others. In the end, six teams presented their findings.

The panel of judges included Arash Negahban, assistant professor in the Department of Business Information Systems and director for the Center for Enterprise Systems and Informatics Research (CESIR); Kevin Buffardi, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science; Clay McNamee, technical data analyst from Trinchero Family Estates; Alex Triantafyllou, head coach of the Chico State Women’s Rugby Team; and Jeff McCready, Cetera financial consultant and past rugby coach.

The data was provided by the Olympic Champion Canadian National Women’s Rugby team and included a complex set of four different datasets containing GPA tracking data during games, physical wellness surveys, and training workload. The data provider asked students to consider the role of workload and fatigue in Rugby 7’s, a fast-paced, physically demanding sport that pushes the limits of athletic speed, endurance, and toughness.

Teams presented informative findings on what an optimal training workload could look like at different points in the season, or how certain summative wellness measures that are currently being used could be optimized to provide better predictive ability. The winning teams were:

  • Best Visualization: Re(sps) (Forrest Bullard, Joseph Levine, April Nuestro, and Steven Sheppard)
  • Best use of Outside Data: Kwonsu Bus (Seunghwan An, Hwandong Joo, and Kwounsu Lee)
  • Best Discovery: Standard Deviants (Collin Dever and Brandon Leff)
  • Judge’s Choice: The Data Strikes Back (Eisley Adoremos, Jack Fogliasso, Eduardo Gomez, Kyle Hammer, and Jerry Tucay)

DataFest provides students with real-world experience with a data challenge and serves as an opportunity for students learn about careers in data science.

“I participated in DataFest so I could get an inside look into a real-world scenario in the field I would like to get into,” said James Hensley, a business information systems major. “My favorite part was seeing the results. Seeing what people can do with data and programming is really awesome. As a student, this really benefited me because not only do I know what I should focus my studies on, but it helps me narrow down what I should teach myself after I graduate.”

DataFest was sponsored by Trinchero Family Estates; The American Statistical Association; CSU, Chico’s Math Club; The Center for Enterprise Systems and Informatics Research; Enloe Medical Center; Pearson Educational Products; Payless Building Supply; the R Consortium; CSU Chico’s SAP University Competence Center; and Chicostart.

“CESIR is happy to sponsor Chico State’s DataFest competition,” said Arash Negahban, director for the Center for Enterprise Systems and Informatics Research. “The competition is the result of months of interdisciplinary collaborations aiming to provide students with an opportunity to explore the realm of business analytics, develop their critical thinking skills, and realize their analytical talents.”

“Hosting DataFest is the highlight of my spring semester,” added DSI coordinator and statistics professor Robin Donatello. “Watching students tackle a challenging data set, helping each other out, and in general get excited about data (of course while snacking on all the goodies provided by the sponsors) is immensely enjoyable.”

Robin A. Donatello, PhD
Assistant Professor of Statistics
CSU, Chico Data Science Initiative Coordinator