Data Fest 2018: Sign Up for a Whirlwind Weekend with Data

I tried to get a hint about the dataset for this year’s Data Fest competition, but as always that information is sealed up tight. That is one of the key alluring facts about Data Fest – none of the participants know what data set they will be working with until the opening ceremony.

This year the reveal will be on April 6th at 5PM. The competition will run until April 8th at 5PM. You may be asking, what competition? If you are unfamiliar with Data Fest, and a fan of working with data along with fellow students, this is your change to get involved. Data Fest is a data analysis competition in which teams of students are given access to a large and complex dataset, as well as the weekend to explore and analyze the information, and then present their findings. The dataset is often data from a company that is also sponsoring the event – last year’s was Expedia. The company might share their interest in learning certain things about the data, but mostly it is free range in terms of what a team’s ‘findings’ can be. At the end of the competition, prizes are given out for awards such as Best in Show, Best Visualization, Best Use of External Data, etc.

Data Fest was founded by the American Statistical Association (ASA) in 2011. While it uses the format of a hackathon in which students are only given 48 hours and asked to do as much work as they can in that time period, an important aspect of Data Fest is competition. The incentive of a money prize for the winning teams helps ensure that groups of students quickly bond and figure out how to best split up the different data management and analysis tasks. And while the format of Data Fest is standardized by the ASA, each university who holds a Data Fest brings in their own panel of judges and alumni to help out. This is clearly a defining goal for the event – ASA boasts on their official page that “a key feature of ASA DataFest is that it brings together the data science community.” The unique combination of it being a pressured environment and Data Fest hoping to bring in as many students as possible allows for students who might be interested in data analysis to have a comprehensive trial run.

In other words, are you interested in learning how to work with data, but don’t have room in your schedule to take a QAC course? Are you unsure of how to begin learning? Or do you not want to have to learn on your own? If so, sign up HERE for Wesleyan’s 2018 Data Fest! Registration is happening now through March 1st. You can either sign up with a team, or be assigned to one. All of your meals will be provided for during the weekend (another perk – free food!) and you will be supported by a great community of fellow students, professors, and special guests.

What makes the competition even more interesting is that Wesleyan is simply hosting Data Fest, meaning that the event will also include teams who will be visiting Wesleyan’s campus from Yale University, Connecticut College, Trinity College, University of Connecticut, Binghamton University (SUNY), and Bentley University. This cross-collegiate set-up, combined with the presence of alumni and professors, allows for Data Fest to not only be a learning opportunity but a networking opportunity. On their website, ASA boasts that “many professionals find ASA DataFest to be a great recruiting opportunity.” So while a whole weekend might seem like a lot of time to give up to participate, participants have a lot of chances to experiment with exciting possibilities for post-college working life.

Given the excitement around the event, you can see why the Data Fest info has been kept top secret. Still, Professor Val Nazzaro, the information’s guardian as well as the person who has done most of the organization for the event, believes that “students will also find [this year’s] data source particularly relevant and interesting.”  Last year, people wrestled with info from hundreds of thousands of trips across the world; the year before that, students tinkered with box office reports provided by TicketMaster. Sign up to discover yourself what Data Fest has in store this spring!