Collaborative competition sharpens data analysis skills while teaching importance of collaboration
Chels Fabian
Missouri state seal on exterior wall of Middlebush Hall

Middlebush Hall hosted undergraduates from Mizzou, Truman State, Missouri S&T, and Southeast Missouri State University during DataFest Mizzou.

Undergraduates from Mizzou, Truman State, Missouri S&T, and Southeast Missouri State University recently took over Middlebush Hall to participate in this year’s DataFest Mizzou. Founded at UCLA in 2011, the American Statistical Association (ASA) DataFest is a 48-hour collaborative competition that challenges students to analyze, organize and find meaning in raw data — while building marketable skills in data analysis. 

Over the weekend-long event, students worked in teams to analyze real-world data donated by businesses and organizations. At the end of this intense period, each team sat before a panel of judges and delivered a short presentation breaking down their analysis tactics and recommendations for how this data might be used to benefit the data donor. 

Statistics alumnus David Reynolds, B.S. ‘20, M.A. ‘21, participated in DataFest Mizzou in 2019. Now a data scientist for Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C., Reynolds says that DataFest helped him hone his data interpretation skills and learn more about the importance of collaboration in data analysis.  

DataFest was such a great experience because it taught me a lot about working together as a team to analyze large datasets,” says Reynolds. “Real-world problems that involve data analysis are typically highly complex and open-ended, so there are multiple approaches to consider.” 

Dr. Suhwon Lee, teaching professor of statistics and director of the Center for Applied Statistics and Data Analysis, has been organizing DataFest Mizzou since its first year in 2017. Lee says that DataFest allows students to build on several skills, including data wrangling, data visualization, statistical analysis, and presenting to a team of professionals and peers. 

Lee says that any student interested in data analysis—no matter their major—should consider DataFest. “Participants have hands-on experiences working with real-world data,” Lee says. It requires creative and analytical thinking and sharp problem-solving skills. Additionally, students who participate network with peers, graduates, and faculty, all while strengthening their resumes with their participation in this nationally recognized event.” 

More than just sharpening data analysis skills, DataFest is a chance for students to experience how important collaboration is when working with raw data. “Most aspiring data scientists and statisticians think they’re going to be coding all day in isolation in their careers,” says Reynolds. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Collaborating with colleagues is an invaluable skill that I use every day as a data scientist.” 

2024 DataFest Mizzou Winners

Best Use of Statistical AnalysisBest in ShowBest Visualization

Team “SASsieR” 
from Mizzou 

Ryan Wahle (sophomore, computer science) 

Spencer Steinmeyer (sophomore, mathematics) 

Thomas Searcy (junior, mathematics) 

Jordan Chiantelli-Mosebach (senior, statistics and linguistics) 

Silas Smith (senior, statistics) 

Team “gif or gif” 
from Truman State

Evan AuBuchon (junior, statistics) 

Severin Hussey (junior, statistics) 

Dane Winterboer (junior, statistics) 

Nathan Bresette (junior, statistics) 

Team “The Pirates” 
from Southeast Missouri State University 

Moe Toyoda (senior, mathematics) 

Gwen Squires (junior, mathematics) 

Nguyen Thao Pham (senior, computer information systems) 

Samuel Shevlin (senior, mathematics)