MSBA Team Wins MinneMUDAC Case Competition

MSBA Team Wins MinneMUDAC Case Competition for 2nd Straight Year

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

As people across the U.S. held their breath on election night to see how the balance of power may shift in Congress, a team of Carlson School Master of Science in Business Analytics students also watched with rapt attention as voting results were reported—but for a different reason.

The team of five was in the midst of a case competition that challenged teams with predicting voter turnout in Minnesota using data points to determine what influences the number of voters who cast ballots.

Based on its presentation a few days before the election and the subsequent accuracy of their results, the Carlson School team won first place in the graduate division of this year’s MinneMUDAC Student Data Science Challenge.

MSBA students Kavya Puthuvaya, Raghuveer Rao Vijjini, Tarun Newton, Erik Stryshak, and Shakti Kothari represented the Carlson School, advised by Assistant Professor Yicheng Song and Lee Thomas, Associate Director of the Carlson Analytics Lab.

This is the second consecutive year a Carlson School team won top honors in the graduate division of the competition.

“It was a great honor and a great experience,” Newton says. “This competition showed us firsthand how we could apply what we learned in the classroom to this competition.”

Exploring Midterm Turnout

Hundreds of students from across the Midwest were tasked with predicting the voter turnout for Democrats, Republicans, and third-party candidates for each of Minnesota’s eight Congressional district elections, as well as competitions for both Senate seats and the race for governor.

To do this, the teams had to find their own data, figure out factors that may influence whether or not people with certain demographic characteristics will vote, and determine what percentage of the populace would vote for each candidate.

“There were a lot of variables that we had to consider,” Vijjini says. “We looked at a number of different variables, including education, race, and income and how those translated to party affiliation and likelihood to vote. But there were also factors such as candidate fundraising, how popular they were, and whether or not they were an incumbent that we had to factor into our model.”

MinneMUDAC, now in its third year, is a partnership between MinneAnalytics and the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC). The case competition is designed to give students real-world experience using data to solve problems and presenting findings.

Students begin by showcasing their work to a group of judges who evaluate the teams on several factors, including data preparation, creativity, methods, communication of results, and team synergy. The accuracy of their model and predictions of turnout also were factored into their scoring. After the judging round, finalists are chosen from each division to present their results to the entire group.

The Carlson School team scored high across the board, especially for creativity and the accuracy of their predictions. To help predict the outcome of the eight Congressional districts in Minnesota, the team found other districts in different states that have comparable demographics to aid in their Minnesota predictions.

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Applying Schoolwork to Real Work

All in all, the team’s predictions were about 98 percent accurate for the Minnesota races and correctly predicted several Congressional races that flipped from one party to another.

This type of project allowed the students to use the skills they learn in the classroom and apply it to a real-world scenario. Many experiential learning opportunities are woven throughout the MSBA curriculum, allowing students to see how they can apply what they learn to real-world situations.

“We learned those tools in class and were able to apply it directly to the project,” Newton says. “Because we were comfortable with what we learned in class, we were able to extend it to this project and problem-solve our way through things we weren’t sure of.”

This type of learning has led to 100 percent of 2015 and 2016 graduates receiving job offers within 90 days of completing the program. MSBA graduates have gone to work at top companies across the country, including Best Buy, Capital One, Facebook, and Google.