DREAM decimates Data Derby

Minnesota State students who are a part of Data Resources for Eager and Analytical Minds (DREAM) racked up awards at the 2023 Data Derby.  

Hosted by Minnesota State’s I.T. Center of Excellence April 8, The Data Derby is split into two groups, the Datagon and the Datathon. The Datagon is a three-hour on-site competition that takes place on the day of the derby. Datathon is a month-long competition for students to analyze data and then present their findings to judges on the day of the derby. The question students were told to analyze was the prediction of food price inflation.

DREAM founder and associate professor Rajeev Bukralia said although DREAM resides in the Computer Information Science Department, it’s inclusive to students of all majors. 

“Data science is a multidisciplinary field. Yes, computer science plays a very big role, but math, business management, even biology is involved,” Bukralia said. “It’s applicable everywhere.”

DREAM president Saumya Gautam was paired with teammates Jake Hauser and Noah Haile. Gautam said participating in the Data Derby helps build teamwork by highlighting team members’ skills.

“If one is good at data visualization, another is good at programming, and the third one has great communication, there’s no way that your team won’t win. If you have a great team, and everyone’s an expert in their field, it creates the best output,” Gautam said.

Gautam’s team won first place in the Datagon Advance level and second place in the Datathon Advance level. 

Hauser said he was thrilled to find out his team had won. 

“I’ve never competed in a competition similar to this before so I didn’t know what to expect. Our group worked really hard, so it was rewarding that we placed well,” Hauser said.

Hauser said he enjoyed the competition as it allowed his group the freedom to analyze the data the way they wanted to interpret it. 

“Often in class, you’re told what procedures and analyses to perform on data. I feel like we got to be creative in how we analyzed the data which was fun,” Hauser said.

Haile said he was surprised but excited to win. 

“My team and I put lots of hours and dedicated time into putting forth our best work, so I felt excited we had the opportunity to accept an award,” Haile said. 

As the vice president of DREAM, Haile said he’s gotten a lot from being a part of the RSO. 

“I’ve got many good relationships with classmates and professors that help me push myself and go above and beyond what I thought was the ceiling for my success,” Haile said.

Additionally, one team won first place in the Datagon Novice level and another team won third in the Datathon Advanced level.

Freshman Ricardo de Deijn was a member of the DATA Mavericks, which placed third in the Advanced Datathon. de Deijn said he had to work on multiple tasks. 

“My tasks included communicating with the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, training a forecasting model with the data my team and collecting, analyzing and preparing parts of the presentation,” de Deijn said. 

de Deijn said DREAM has allowed him to network with data science professionals and meet students who share similar interests. 

“It’s fun to participate in events organized by DREAM because they provide ways to hang out with other students while also giving the opportunity to grow your knowledge,” de Deijn said. 

DREAM members also attended MinneMUDAC (Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition) on March 25 at the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. One of DREAM’s teams placed fourth in the graduate category where the goal was to predict gate counts for future Twin games.

Gautam said students should join DREAM as it allows them to gain professional experience to put on a resume.

“Anyone can have a 4.0 GPA but when you go for a job interview, they want to see what you do outside of school or how much experience you have as a full-time student. These hackathons give you the real-world experience of working with real data and your analysis can make an impact,” Gautam said. 

Bukralia said students should get involved to interact with students who share similar interests and for the resources DREAM has to offer. 

“DREAM brings industry speakers from Microsoft to Google to IBM, so it opens up a possibility for students to not only learn from the industry professionals about the trends, but about the challenges that these companies face. They get connected with them and sometimes that translates into job and internship opportunities,” Bukralia said. “The bigger theme is invoking the students’ curiosity and instilling that belief that they can do something more than what they thought would be possible.”

There is no membership form to join DREAM. Students can join by attending a meeting or by following DREAM’s LinkedIn. Students with any questions can email

Header photo: Members of DREAM attended MinneMUDAC at Target Field, a competition where students predicted gate counts of Minnesota Twins games. (Courtesy professor Rajeev Bukralia)

Write to Emma Johnson at

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