As part of its ongoing drive to bring together the best of industry and academic expertise—and to establish McIntire as a leader in business analytics education—McIntire’s Center for Business Analytics (CBA) triple-teamed with top global consultancy and CBA board member Deloitte, along with premier amusement vending company National Entertainment Network (NEN), to offer UVA undergraduate students a high-stakes, real-world data analytics challenge—and the chance to win real money.
Held April 6-13, 2015, with finalists’ presentations delivered April 24, McIntire’s first-ever “Data Blitz” competition challenged 20 three-, four-, or five-person teams of UVA undergraduates to analyze four years of data from NEN, with an eye to offering actionable insights into critical business-related questions.
“The Data Blitz competition offered students a fantastic opportunity to sink their teeth into a real data set and craft solutions to address real business needs,” says McIntire IT Professor Jennifer Claggett, who served as one of the competition’s judges. “When it comes to applying what you’ve learned in the classroom, there’s no substitute for working with real data—and this competition, in particular, forced students to think creatively and synthesize lessons from all of their classes.”
Partners in Analysis
Working with a Deloitte adviser, the 20 teams spent the week of April 6 poring over the data, leveraging a diverse set of majors and McIntire concentrations to conduct analyses from a variety of perspectives. The teams then electronically submitted their findings for the consideration of a panel of judges from McIntire, Deloitte, and NEN, and 10 teams were chosen to move forward in the contest. Those 10 teams then made live presentations to the judges, after which three stellar teams moved on to the contest’s championship round. The three remaining teams then presented again, competing for the top and two runner-up designations as well as prizes of $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000.
“The presentations were all excellent, and it was very difficult to select the best teams,” says Claggett, noting that the top finishers distinguished themselves through the use of sophisticated analytic techniques, including data visualization, to find meaningful patterns and make informed recommendations about business strategy.
First place in the competition was earned by Jerry Fiala (Engineering ’16), Eric Macblane (Engineering ’16), and Alex Ripley (Engineering ’16). Second place was earned by Adriel Barrett-Johnson (A&S ’16), Olivia Duke (McIntire ’16), Lillian Gao (McIntire ’16), Heather Storeide (McIntire ’16), and Kyle West (McIntire ’16). Third place was earned by Kenneth Kuan (McIntire ’16), Prathamesh Kulkarni (McIntire ’16) and Abdul Hakeem Mohamed Yunos (spring ’15 NUS exchange student).
Everyone’s a Winner
Deloitte’s Caitlin Henry (McIntire ’13) says the event proved to be an outstanding opportunity for all parties involved. “For students, the Data Blitz offered not only a great representation of the kind of start-to-finish case we might work on at Deloitte, but also the chance to engage in a valuable multidimensional business challenge,” Henry says. “The competition’s combined requirements in business strategy and data analytics, as well as its demanding communication component, made it an unusually rigorous college-level contest.”
More, Henry points out, the contest offered UVA students the chance to work and network with representatives from leading business consultancy Deloitte—and, in turn, offered Deloitte the chance to introduce itself to up-and-comers from the top-ranked University of Virginia. “The Data Blitz competition was a resounding success,” Henry says. “We look forward to working with the CBA as it continues to find valuable, creative ways to grow McIntire’s data analytics curriculum.”
By Mary Summers Whittle