48-hour competition challenges Rider students to glean insights from Big Data

DataFest is a nationally sponsored event

Students from Rider University's College of Business Administration analyzed a large and complex data set and competed for prizes at the 2018 ASA DataFest competition — a collaboration between academe, students and industry that was held over the weekend of April 27-29 in Sweigart Hall at Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.

DataFest is an annual competition in which teams of up to five students work to reveal insights from a large and rich data set. The program takes data-analysis learning beyond the scope of what students usually see in their classes by enabling them to work on large datasets. Forty-five undergraduate and graduate students from College of Business Administration participated in the event. The event is sponsored nationally by the American Statistical Association (ASA).

During the 48-hour event, which began Friday evening and concluded Sunday afternoon, each team competed head-to-head for prizes in categories ranging from “Best Business Insight,” “Best Visualization” and “Best Use of External Data.” Each team presented its findings to a panel of external judges comprised of industry experts and professors in the analytics field.

Team Thiiq Facts comprised of Trisha Chaubey, a junior accounting major; Monique Edward, a sophomore marketing major; Rose Hyppolite, a sophomore accounting major; and Taylor Mennie, a junior business administration major, won the Best Business Insight prize.

Team Data League comprised of Yasmine Agouzal, a senior finance major; Nicole Costello, a senior marketing major; Christopher Eckhardt, a senior information systems major; Allison Jurado, a junior marketing major; and Josh Winslade, a junior finance major, won the Best Visualization prize.

Team Data Geeks comprised of Master of Accountancy student Saleh AlFaheid; Norma Nieves, a freshman accounting major; Master of Business Administration students Donna Ortutay and Steffanne Pena-Cintron; and Taner Torenli, a senior accounting major, won the Best External Use of Data prize.

The College of Business Administration wishes to thank the DataFest judges: Remesh Gudalur at Cognitive Operations, Mukesh Shah at Grant Thornton, Devin Lesnever at NJM Insurance Company and Dr. Antonios Marsellos at Hofstra University.

Each year, the data and the challenge are different, but the common theme of making sense of Big Data — larger and more complex than the data sets students usually encounter in a classroom — is carried over. The dataset, which consists of real-world data of current interest to the providing organization or business, is not unveiled until the start of the competition so participating students cannot prepare in advance for the event.

For the first ASA DataFest in 2011, the data consisted of 10 million arrest records spanning a five-year period provided by the Los Angeles Police Department. In 2016, the data set was provided by Last year, the data set was provided by This year’s DataFest competitors worked on another large data set whose provider cannot be revealed until the last DataFest event has concluded.

ASA DataFest was first held at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2011 and expanded to Duke University the following year. In 2013, UCLA partnered with several nearby schools — Pomona College; the University of California, Riverside; Cal State Long Beach; and the University of Southern California — to host the competition. Meanwhile, Duke students competed along with their counterparts from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at their own multi-school DataFest event.

This year, parallel events are being held at 32 other locations in the U.S. and Canada. Sixty-four universities are participating, and Rider was proud to be the only host located in New Jersey.