A team of five students in Olin’s business analytics program prevailed over 44 other teams and took first place in a global competition this week with a project that provided the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with invaluable insight about its annual fundraising bike race.
Di Ai, Eileen Liu, Ziwei Lu, Ariel Tien, and Songyi Wang—all MSCA ’18—learned this week they had won the Teradata Data Challenge in the midst of the massive Teradata Corporation industry conference in Las Vegas, which ends today.
“I am passionate about using and decoding data to do something good, and I feel honored that the analyses we’ve done for Bike MS have been recognized as the best,” said Ariel Tien, the team’s leader. “This award has definitely entrusted us with the responsibility of encouraging more students at the school to participate in these kind of competitions, which can bring a positive change to society.”
The months-long process, which took the students more than 500 hours of work, began in early spring with an analysis of the NMSS’s data and a submitted PowerPoint presentation and written report in April. From there, industry experts, data scientists, and business executives served as judges, whittling down the submissions to five finalists, who were given the opportunity to give a six-minute presentation about their findings to judges in Las Vegas.
Competitors all faced the same problem: NMSS holds Bike MS charity races. The organization was concerned about falling participation, acquisition of new participants, and donation amounts. Students were asked to offer insights from the NMSS data and recommend ways to address the trend.
Olin students developed a machine-learning predictive model that identified when a particular Bike MS team captain was about to roll out of the program, causing churn; they also used clustering analysis to re-segment the hosting cities into new tiers with recommended strategies for each tier.
“The students argued—using data—that it’s cheaper to invest in retaining a captain than in acquiring new participants for the race to replace the lost captain,” said Yulia Nevskaya, assistant professor of marketing and the team’s faculty advisor.
Teradata, the largest data warehousing company in the world, holds a board seat at Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights.
“It is great to see our MSCA students showcasing their skills at such a highly-attended industry conference and building our school’s reputation,” said Seethu Seetharaman, director of the CABI and faculty director of the specialized master’s in business analytics program.
WATCH: WashU Olin’s team announced as the winner
Pictured above with their medals from the Teradata Data Challenge: Di Ai; Songyi Wang; Ariel Tien; Eileen Liu; Olin faculty advisor Yulia Nevskaya; and Ziwei Lu.