Two Meredith College teams participated in DataFest at NC State this spring, with both teams earning awards.
DataFest is an event sponsored by the American Statistical Association and held at schools around the country each spring. The event lasts from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, while undergraduate teams compete to explore and analyze a secret data set provided by an anonymous client. Teams share insights in a brief presentation at the end of the event.
Meredith faculty members Assistant Professor of Mathematics Emily Lada and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dylan Glotzer worked with the Meredith teams and served as judges along with four NC State faculty members.
The Meredith team that won the Data Insights Award included Emma Brooks, ’24, Salma Emjaheed, ’24, Jeannie Hinton, ’25, and Wanjiru Mambo, ’24. The team that won the Data Visualization Award consisted of Kaelyn Coleman, ’24, Mei Li Moo King, ’23, Mwende Mumo, ’23, and Stephanie Wairagu, ’23.
DataFest requires teamwork, focus, and creative thinking along with data science skills.
“The competition is extremely open-ended and there is no set ‘answer,’” said Glotzer. “Teams are encouraged to discover and learn any kind of interesting things they can from the data that may help the client.”
Lada said determining what questions to answer with a dataset can be difficult.
“Our students were able to practice that at DataFest and it was really neat to see the different directions that our two teams took in analyzing the data,” she said.
Public Health major Stephanie Wairagu, ’23, appreciated the opportunity to put what she has learned into practice.
“Participating in DataFest was a stimulating and thought-provoking experience for me. I was excited to see how concepts I had learned in the classroom could be applied to have a meaningful impact in a real-world setting,” said Wairagu. “The highlight of my DataFest experience was collaborating with a team of like-minded individuals who shared my passion for data science, and I was thrilled to see our collective efforts culminate in a successful presentation.”
The competition was an opportunity to practice collaborating successfully under time constraints.
“You need to collaborate on determining a common goal and create a plan on how you will achieve that goal,” said Mathematics major Mei Li Moo King, ’23. “Planning is the key to success.”
She also applied lessons learned through classes in her statistics and data science minors.
“With the help of Dr. Glotzer and Dr. Lada, I have had a lot of practice in the many steps of the data analysis process including wrangling, exploratory data analysis, inference, and prediction,” she added. “This competition required a significant amount of wrangling and statistical analysis skills that I wouldn’t have mastered without the coursework in these classes.”
Participating in DataFest helped students strengthen their teamwork skills, said Salma Emjaheed, ’24, a computer science and international studies major whose team won the Data Insights Award.
“They allowed us to work in teams for a little bit, and then they gave a presentation on how to work in teams more effectively, and the presenter gave examples of how people at Duke do it,” said Emjaheed. “This helped in seeing what we were doing wrong, and we improved when we went back to working together.”
She was also able to use the knowledge gained in Meredith’s Data Science 200 course. “Doing a lot of projects in that course was really helpful because it gave me examples of code and output that I can use for the DataFest,” Emjaheed said.
This was the first year that NC State’s DataFest included student teams from other schools. Lada offered thanks to the NCSU Data Science Academy for hosting the event and for welcoming Meredith students.