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Cougars & Mustangs



As finals rapidly approach, waiting with bated breath like a dog at the end of the dinner table, it’s nice to know that students are accomplishing great things despite the enormous levels of stress heaped upon them. Take, for example, two Cal Poly teams that entered DataFest, an undergraduate statistics hackathon—not a Tron-themed Mardi Gras celebration, although either one could be cool. 

Almost 20 teams from five colleges entered this competition, which occurred at UCLA from April 29 to May 1. Cal Poly proudly finished first in the best insight category and second in the best use of external data category. At the event, online ticket seller Ticketmaster provided millions of data points to students, who had just less than 48 hours to see what they could find. In this way, DataFest gives students the chance to do hands-on analysis of real-world big data. In other words, it’s a opportunity to learn by doing

Remember, Cal Poly’s motto isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a way of life! So what did the winning teams accomplish, you may ask? Well, the team that won for best insight built a filter to predict how successful an event will be at a venue where it’s never been held. The second best in use of external data calculated the average price of a ticket by county and compared that to economic census data to see whether ticket prices were reasonable for that region. 

Even if the students hadn’t achieved the victories they now boast under their scholarly belts, the event’s hands-on approach was still invaluable, particularly due to the data pool’s massive size. Hunter Glanz, a statistics professor and the teams’ faculty advisor, said in a press release that “DataFest is a great opportunity for students to work with a set of data that’s much larger than what we can usually offer them in a classroom setting.” 

Shreyas Doshi, a student who worked on the external data team, agreed. “We were able to take an actual company’s data and develop our own insight, visualization, and inferences at a much bigger scale than we can in class.” 

Students had the opportunity throughout the event to network with professionals from Ticketmaster, who attended the competition and judged the entries. 

Congratulations are in order not only for the winners, but for all who attended. Good job putting yourselves out there. It may not have been Tron-themed, but it’s an important step toward that future that’s waiting for them after Cal Poly!

Contributor Lola White-Sanborn would still like to attend a Tron-themed Mardi Gras. Send her your collegiate news via [email protected].

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