The last weekend in March was an intense – but fun – 48 hours for students from MacEwan University and the University of Alberta competing in the American Statistical Association’s (ASA) eighth annual DataFest.
It’s the first time the event has been held in Edmonton, giving nine teams of up to five members each the opportunity to dig into a complex, real-world data set. Working together, the students extracted knowledge from the data set, drawing on their experience and skills in statistics, machine learning, computer science and problem solving.
Not only was it a chance to test out their skills, it was also an opportunity for them to see how relevant, useful and versatile the tools they’re learning in the classroom really are, says Dr. Karen Buro, chair of MacEwan’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
After two days of working around the clock, the teams presented their findings to a panel of judges from both universities and the Canada Revenue Agency, vying for three team awards: Best in Show, Best Visualization and Best Use of Outside Data.
Three MacEwan teams swept the awards, but that’s all we can say about that. The source of the data the students analyzed – and the findings they extracted from it – remains top secret until May 3 when the final DataFest event for 2019 is held at the University of Waterloo.
“We were so impressed with the enthusiasm, energy and creativity all teams displayed, every group finding their unique approach to understanding the data,” says Karen. “I am very proud of what everyone accomplished, but in particular of the three MacEwan teams winning the awards. As an instructor of mathematics and statistics it is extremely rewarding to see our students embracing our subject and applying their skills.”
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