Data challenge puts career learning on the map

University of Wolverhampton students took part in a two-day data hackathon designed to put large-scale data analysis on the learning map to develop 21st century career skills.

Students studying for degrees across a range of disciplines including Computer Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Biotechnology took part in DataFest, an intensive 48-hour challenge, as part of the University’s Career Development Week (CDW).

A team of German students visiting from Aschaffenburg University, accompanied by Professor Michael Moeckel, also took part in the challenge.

DataFest was first introduced by the Statistics Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2011 and is now supported by the American Statistical Association (ASA) and hosted at universities throughout the US.

The event was hosted by the School of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University’s City Campus in association with Transport for West Midlands, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and City of Wolverhampton Council, who provided transportation data for students to interrogate.

Stuart Lester, Data Innovation Lead at Transport for West Midlands, said: “We were really pleased to set the challenge for students by providing the data sets and contexts of the problems we are grappling with.  It was great to have the chance to work with the next generation of data scientists, to inspire them to get involved in the world of transport data.”

Dr Patricia Davies, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, said:  “Our DataFest competition is designed to bring “big data” to our students during Career Development Week, and get them thinking of themselves as data professionals.

“Students from across a range of faculties were tasked with analysing a huge amount of transport data, working in small teams to interpret their findings, and presenting these results and recommendations to a wider audience. The intensive exercise helped students to develop negotiating skills, perseverance, tolerance in working as part of a team, and adhering to strict deadlines - all transferrable skills for the real world of work.”

Professor Prashant Pillai, who recently joined the University as Professor of Cybersecurity and Director of Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute, presented the DataFest trophies donated by Google to participants.  He said: “This take a lot of effort. It not only tested students’ abilities to use cutting edge tools and techniques in the field of data science, but also their ability to work in diverse groups to solve such complex tasks.”

Richard McNally, 22, a Mathematical Science student, said: “Our group focused mainly on congestion.  We were given two sets of data - speed that traffic travels at and incidents of congestion, and it was our task to find out what might be the cause of congestion.

“I really enjoyed the whole process.  I was so focused and it was really great to interact with people you wouldn’t normally interact with.  In particular, the German student who was placed with us brought an engineering focus to our analysis and I also learned things I didn’t know about excel spreadsheets from Computer Science students.”

Prizes were awarded for Best Insight, Best Visualization and Best Use of External Data. The event was also supported by Google, TurtItIn, PebblePad, MathWorks, Royal Statistics Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Anyone wanting to study in the School of Mathematics and Computer Science should register for our next Open Day on Saturday 21st April 2018.


For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

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