Ariel Silbert Mandell Judges Info Challenge 2023
On March 4, 2023, I headed out to University of Maryland College Park (UMD) to judge teams of students for Info Challenge 2023 (IC23). The goal of IC23 is to give students of all backgrounds an opportunity to solve complex problems by leveraging their analytical skills and creative ideas with support from the organization that provided the dataset, Info Challenge Mentors, and the Info Challenge team. This year, the competition included more universities than ever – drawing competitors from the US Naval Academy, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Montgomery College as well as UMD. The competition has many categories – data analysis, design, and cybersecurity. Students are encouraged to use third party services, APIs, open-source projects, libraries, and frameworks to supplement the data they are given.
What is Info Challenge?
Teams have only one week from the time they are given the data to the time they turn in their completed projects; IC23 is a take on the traditional hackathon – part of the challenge is how much work teams can get done in such a short time period. On February 25th, the competition kicked off. Teams met with their mentors to discuss ideas, frame research questions, start analysis work and set expectations for the week. Challenge Partners (who provided the data) gave 30-minute presentations about their project. Info Challenge Advisors gave Tech Talks, including how to get started and the different tools to choose from. Challenge Partners and Info Challenge Advisors were then available for questions. Over the next week, the teams worked remotely on their projects and check in with their mentors for support, and at the end of the week, their project abstracts are due.
That’s where the judges come in. Each team presented their findings for 10-15 minutes, followed by 10-15 minutes of Q&A. We judged each presentation based on project and quality. With such a short time to work with the data, teams were not expected build a new-in-kind technical solution. Rather, they were judged on their process and their explanation of their process. Later in the afternoon, teams presented their projects to other enthusiasts in the showcase event.
Judging Info Challenge
As a judge, I reviewed six projects – three for the Level One Data Analysis Group and three projects for the Level Four. The Level One groups reviewed data provided by the UMD Office of International Affairs on enrollment in their Global Classroom courses. These groups were beginners, who mostly worked with visualizing data and telling a cohesive story. Their goal was to show how they would advise the university to increase enrollment and diversity. Each group took a different take on the problem – including how they would assess and define diversity – showcasing their creativity. The Level Four groups examined fatal crash data from the state of Washington with the goal of generating insights into the crashes to improve public safety. These groups had more advanced knowledge of data science. I was excited to see the different approaches – some incorporated data from outside sources while others leveraged geospatial data or k-means analysis.
I enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in this event. It’s always exciting interacting with future data scientists and seeing bright minds at work. I’m so thankful to have been a part of IC23, and I was honored to be invited to participate in the event. I wish all of the participants luck in their future pursuits!