About DataFest

DataFest is a nationally-coordinated undergraduate competition in which teams of up to 5 students work over a weekend to extract insight from a rich and complex data set. Previous years’ data sets have included crime data from the LAPD, dating data from eHarmony, and energy use data from GridPoint. This year’s data set will be revealed at the opening of the event on Friday evening. At the conclusion of the competition, each team will have 5 minutes to make a presentation to a panel of judges. Each panel of judges will select a team for the “Best in Group” prize, and the entire group of judges will determine a “Best in Show” prize. Other additional prizes may be awarded.

The mission of DataFest is to expose undergraduate students to challenging questions with immediate real-world significance that can be addressed through data analysis. By working in teams, students with varying skill sets will combine their efforts and expand their collective data analysis horizons. Interaction among students, as well as with outside consultants will promote the sense that data analysis is a dynamic, engaging, and vibrant part of our society, as well as a realistic, practical, and fun career path.

The 2017 Five College DataFest will take place:

Start: Friday, March 31, 2017, 7:30 pm

Finish: Sunday, April 2, 2017, 4 pm

Venue:

661 N Pleasant St.
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

What can I win?

Prizes, fame, glory, or some combination thereof… And you get a free t-shirt!

What do I need to compete?

All you need is a laptop with tools for data analysis (there is no limitation on which software you use) and enthusiasm for data.

What are the rules of the competition?

The rules are very simple:

  • No more than five students members per team.
  • Team members can come and go as they please but all work has to be done on-site. A steady supply of food, beverage, and snacks make it more inviting to stay.
  • It’s a competition, but a friendly one, so collaboration between teams is not only allowed but highly encouraged. Official DataFest consultants (grad students, faculty, etc.) will also be around throughout the weekend to help with any questions you might have. However you can’t have outside help.

Do we have to stay the entire time?

No. You may come and go as you please. However, you are only allowed to work on the project while you’re on DataFest grounds, and at least 3 members of your team must attend the introduction.  The competition will be put on hold between midnight and 8 am both nights, so that everyone can sleep and return refreshed and with new ideas.

Where else is DataFest happening?

DataFest is growing fast! In 2016, DataFest was held at 20+ locations around the US with participation from many more universities! For example:

  • Duke University event: Duke, UNC, NCSU, North Carolina A&T State, University of Michigan
  • UCLA event: UCLA, Pomona College, Cal State LB, USC, UCR
  • Five Colleges event: Smith College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mt. Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College
  • DataFest Canada: hosted by Ryerson University
  • DC Summit: hosted by University of Maryland

And many more!

Anything else I should know about DataFest?

While DataFest is a competition, the main goal of the event is to promote collaboration. Here is a testimonial from past participants:

“It was a great experience, with a fun and interesting challenge. One of my favorite parts is how varied the presentations and projects from each team are. I love learning about ways in which others looked at and analyzed the same problem/ data.”

“DataFest was an awesome experience. To me, the best part was working in a team of friends that I usually hung out with, but had not had a chance to work together intensively on a project. We enjoyed analyzing the situations and solving problems together for our client. At the end of the day, we just got to know each other better. It was also fun to interact with other teams to explore other approaches while keeping in mind that we were in competition. The fact that we were given a huge amount of data really challenges us to come up with creative and practical approaches. Another important part was the presentation. Every team had to explain well to the judges their objectives and solutions. Our team won the Best Visualization award which is really awesome. Lastly, the food was fantastic.”

DataFest is also a great opportunity to gain experience that employers are looking for. Having worked on a data analysis problem at this scale will certainly help make you a good candidate for any position that involves analysis and critical thinking, and it will provide a concrete example to demonstrate your experience during interviews.

Event Details

On Friday night we will start with a reception where your surprise client will give a brief introduction to the data you will be working with over the weekend and tell you a bit about what they would like to get out of it. The data will likely be much more complex than what you are used to seeing in your classes, and you will be given free reign to analyze it however you like. In other words, you will come up with a research question that is of interest to you, and conduct the appropriate analysis to answer your question. But you are welcomed, and encouraged, to take cues from the client’s introduction when shaping your research question(s).

Presentations and judging begin Sunday afternoon. Each team gives a brief (5 minute) presentation of their findings to a panel of judges comprised of faculty and professionals from a variety of fields. Prizes will be awarded at the Winners Showcase later in the afternoon.

Any questions?

Please don’t hesitate to contact the organizers with any questions: