Monday, April 22, 2024

UTSA’s Data Crusaders take top spot in global data analysis competition

UTSA’s Data Crusaders take top spot in global data analysis competition

APRIL 22, 2024 — Four graduate students from the UTSA School of Data Science (SDS) are one of three winning teams of the 2024 SAS Curiosity Cup, an annual global data analytics competition. Named the Data Crusaders, the UTSA team included master’s in data analytics students Niharika Bandlamudi, Ki Jeong, Nupoor Karnik and Gagana Uday Kumar. The team earned top prize in the data presentation category.

Sponsored by SAS Institute, an analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) software developer, this year’s Curiosity Cup featured 107 teams from 19 countries, all competing to be recognized for their data preparation, analysis and presentation. The competition's format comprised of initial paper submissions followed by finalists presenting their findings through video presentations.

“We’re starting to transition into mature data analysts. We’re gaining a sense of confidence in our abilities.”

The Data Crusaders analyzed data from the 17 most populated countries in the world to explore how population growth affected energy usage.

“It was a great selection of a research topic,” said Isil Koyuncu, the team’s faculty advisor and assistant professor in Management Science and Statistics. “It’s so relevant and caring about society and sustainability is really important; we need more research in this area.”

The students’ findings were surprising. They had expected that as a country’s population increased, so would its energy consumption — and for about 75% of countries this was true.

However, in the remaining countries, energy usage appeared to stay the same or decrease. The team hypothesized that this was due to increased energy conservation efforts as well as the miniaturization and improved efficiency of modern electronic devices.

The Data Crusaders also tracked the prevalence of renewable energy sources over time, their data showing that from 1995-2021, the reliance on renewable energy more than doubled.

Jeong recalls that Koyuncu prompted the team to take this classroom project and make it a Curiosity Cup contender.

“From the beginning, she encouraged us to apply to the Curiosity Cup and was supportive the whole way,” Jeong said. “Then, while we were doing it, we realized we had a decent chance of getting somewhere with the Curiosity Cup, so we decided to polish it up and submit it, and we ended up being finalists.”

For the Data Crusaders, this outcome was completely unexpected.

“When we got selected, we were over the moon!” Karnik said.

As competition winners, Data Crusaders members can choose from a variety of prizes, from an Apple iPad to a Nintendo Switch. All winners and runners-up will also receive twelve months of access to SAS software of their choice.

For the Data Crusaders, however, the experience alone was worth the effort they put into their project.

“We’re starting to transition into mature data analysts,” Jeong said. “We’re gaining a sense of confidence in our abilities.”

Learn more about and view the video presentations from the 2024 SAS Curiosity Cup.

Participation in events like the Curiosity Cup showcases UTSA students' exceptional talent and dedication. It also reinforces the university's commitment to fostering career-ready graduates, empowering them to become skilled professionals prepared to tackle real-world challenges and emerge as leaders in their fields.

This self-confidence, Kumar agreed, is the real prize of the Curiosity Cup: “It’s not for anybody else; it’s for yourself. It gives you the confidence that you are ready to face the world and ready to take up any job. You’re going to be the best at it. This is a stepping-stone. So, if just to boost your own confidence, take that leap.”

Christopher Reichert

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