Undergraduates Provide Solutions to Data Analytics Problems

Participants of the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC)

Participants of the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC)

    The department of mathematics and statistics at Winona State University will host the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC) 2014 in Winona, Minnesota, April 5–6. MUDAC was started three years ago at Winona State University to showcase the ability of undergraduates to solve a data analytics problem for a nationwide corporation.

    MUDAC is comprised of teams of undergraduate students and their mentors from colleges and universities in the Midwest. This year, teams will work together to solve a problem for Fastenal Corporation, a wholesaler and retailer of industrial and construction materials with more than 2,600 locations worldwide. The competition will begin with Fastenal representatives introducing teams to the analytics problem, and—in the next 24 hours—teams must complete an analysis, provide a written summary of their findings, and present their recommendations. Teams are allowed to seek input from their faculty mentors on a limited basis and from Fastenal representatives who are available to answer questions throughout the competition.

    The winners are selected by a panel of judges that includes faculty mentors, Fastenal representatives, and several other professional data scientists. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three teams. Teams with a diverse knowledge base and the ability to digest complex problems tend to do well. Peter Guidinger, a representative from Fastenal, commented, “One of the most useful take-a-ways from this competition is the creativity and diversity in the solutions provided. The students help us think about our business in different ways, and we enjoy contributing to their long-term professional development at this formative stage in their training.”

    Other undergraduate competitions such as the past ASA-sponsored data analysis competitions from the 1990s, COMAP’s Mathematical Contest in Modeling, and UCLA’s DataFest competition motivated the creation of MUDAC. This competition is unique, however, because in addition to showcasing the analytical ability of undergraduate students, MUDAC also brings academic advisors/mentors together to discuss curricular issues related to the teaching of undergraduates and provides networking opportunities between competition participants and professional data scientists.

    The registration deadline is March 21. For more information, visit the MUDAC website.