Data Hack: MSBA Students in Action
Student teams compete in a 24-hour Big Data challenge; Corporate partners include Sunrun, Uber, Engage3, Digital Data Solutions
The students poured through gallons of coffee. They took catnaps when they could—pulling together a few cushions or even two tables as make-shift beds. But they never strayed far from the data.
Over the course of 24 hours on May 15-16, about 25 UC Davis Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) students teamed up to compete in a real-world business case and data challenge posed by the leading residential solar installer Sunrun.
“This is a challenging area to work in . . . The fact that the teams delivered these results in an ‘all-nighter’ setting is truly impressive!”– Philip Starhill, Data Scientist, Uber
In the sky lounge overlooking the San Francisco skyline at UC Hastings, the students hacked away all night and late into the next day and then presented their solutions to a panel of volunteer judges from ridesharing giant Uber, Davis-based software and data firm Engage3 and the technology group Digital Data Solutions.
scenes from inside the hack
“Creative thinking. The importance of data visualization. It’s all about telling stories and how you can make your insights actionable.”– Judge from Digital Data Solutions
The Data Hackathon 2018 was a one-of-a-kind, marathon data analytics competition conceived and organized by the MSBA students. The competition showcased the analytics expertise and talent of the program’s inagural class and introduced them to key corporate partners.
Teams of two to three students worked around the clock to deliver solutions to a solar industry customer segmentation problem from Sunrun. The teams combined their know-how and technical skills using problem structuring, statistical methods, machine learning and data visualization—and how best to communicate their recommendations to the judges.
With the clock ticking, the Data Hack put the students to the test to collaborate on a compelling and insightful solution.
“I didn’t think I would make it”
“This was my first 24-hour hackathon and, staying up all night, I didn’t think I would make it,” said Pallavi Sama MSBA 18.
Sama was excited to see the different technical approaches to tackling a real-world data challenge in the solar industry from some of these “brilliant” MSBA students.
“We started off with a lot of data cleaning, then some engineering, some machine learning (like regression analysis), and clustering,” explained Sama.
“Witnessing students work with a group of their peers to translate raw data into compelling insights was amazing. I’m certain that experiences such as these will help set these students up for success in their professional endeavors.”– Taryn Dukellis, Sr. Marketplace Data Analyst, Uber
sonic sets the stage
“We have people from about six different companies who are definitely looking to hire students,” said Sonic Prabhudesai MSBA 18, who co-organized the event with fellow students. “The objective today is that students showcase themselves and get a foot in the door with these companies.”
“I enjoyed seeing how each team brought their own analytical sensibility to the problem, and were able to create meaningful and insightful recommendations.” – Philip Starhill, Data Scientist, Uber
tech industry judges name winners
The teams presented their findings to the judges, who weighed each presentation on factors like data visualization, creativity and metrics used.
The top winner was the “Distill AI” team, which included MSBA students Kemal Yılmaz, Shreya Surana and Sharad Jain. Second place went to “The Infinity Warriors,” with Prakhar Gupta, Shruti Saxena and Pallavi Sama.
“They displayed excellent storytelling ability and excelled at problem identification, analytical skills and the ability to craft a narrative using data for actionable business recommendations,” said Amy Russell, executive director of the MSBA program.
The judges offered constructive feedback, praising the students for working together effectively under time pressure, which is critical in today’s global business arena
“Witnessing students work with a group of their peers to translate raw data into compelling insights was amazing,” said Taryn Dukellis, a senior marketplace data analyst at Uber, “and I’m certain that experiences such as these will help set these students up for success in their professional endeavors.”
“The UC Davis Data Hackathon was a perfect opportunity for students to get hands-on training outside of the classroom. I was impressed by the curiosity and creativity the teams used to solve a real-world customer acquisition problem. The case study mimics pricing optimization problems that Engage3 solves for its own corporate retail clients.”– Marielle Valdez-Fong, Head of Marketing, Engage3