MNSU hosts eighth annual MUDAC conference

David Bassey
Editor in Chief

Minnesota State University, Mankato hosted the eighth annual Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC) the weekend of March 30, 2019.

MUDAC is an annual rigorous, high-intensity hackathon competition whose purpose is to help students gain analytic skills and help their professional development. The aim of MUDAC is to “get [students] engaged in some intriguing and complex data analytics problem,” event chair and Computer Science Assistant Professor, Dr. Rajeev Bukralia added.

The activities surrounding this year’s competition was organized by the RSO, Database Resources for Eager and Aspiring Minds (DREAM).

The two-day event featured primarily a 24-hour hackathon with student teams placed in classrooms to be judged by 47 faculty advisors and industry judge pairs from top companies such as Optum, General Mills and United Health.

Over 250 students from top universities and colleges across the Midwest came together aboard the big ideas campus for one purpose – solve humanity’s biggest problem: water quality. 

Some of the participating schools were University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Metro State, St. Cloud State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Data for the problem was provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Water Resources Center at MNSU in the Ostrander Auditorium early Saturday morning.

To solve the water quality problem, students had to gain some domain knowledge of what water quality is and how to define it – high nitrate levels or phosphorus in suspended solids. 

This enabled them to frame and ask the right questions about watersheds.

During the first night, while the competition was in top gear; students, faculty advisor and members of the industry were treated to performances by Bollywood dancers and the Maverick Machine drumline.

On Sunday, with the coding getting to its final close, four teams were chosen based on their execution and data visualization.

One of the most important aspects of the data visualization was being able to tell stories. Teams were ranked based of the propensity of their data to be understood by potential clients. MNSU senior Alycia Holwerda commented in an interview with the Free Press as this being a necessary takeaway from the competition

Each team was given the liberty to use whatever tool was needed.

“Software tools are just means to an end, and you have to solve the problem…which is not clearly defined.” Dr. Bukralia said

While the teams waited excitedly for the judges’ decision, student teams could participate in a career fair featuring over a dozen companies with focus on data science, data analytics and IT jobs.

Students such as University of Minnesota, Morris competitor Wyatt Wirth benefitted from this event as it provided him with real world applications while in college

Among the victors in this year’s MUDAC were Carleton College (team 43) and UW-La Crosse (team 26) for honorable mentions. 

For data visualization, MNSU (team 56) Daryoush Hakimi, Alycia Holwerda, Nayeem Imtiaz, Erik Jacobson, Christopher Zuelsdorf won second place, while University of Minnesota, Duluth (team 52) Tucker Hazzard, Joey Kmiec, Camyrn Monzo, Austin Steinmetz won first place. For third place- Carleton College (team 03) Yuta Baba, Nobuaki Masaki, Saahithi Rao, second place- University of Iowa (team 33) Cindy Chen, Brandon Prather-Huff, Shangguan Wang, Stefan Wang, Tianyuan and first place- UW-Eau Claire (team 30) Hunter Hartke, Eric Mallmann, William O’Brien, Isaac Swenson, Lance Tanel.

Header photo by Samuel Oluwadoromi | MSU Reporter.

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