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UNH students compete in a data-analytics competition

Fifteen small teams of students competed in a data-analytics competition at the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter) starting last Friday, Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. and running until 10 a.m. the following day. This competition, the first UNH Hackathon of its kind, awarded the winning team with a weekend trip to Las Vegas for IBM’s World of Watson 2016 Conference, being held Oct. 24-27. Winners had to be prepared to fly out by 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.
“Hackathons by nature are problem-solving events, and what we are doing here is solving the problem that is the analysis of data,” event organizer and ECenter Program Manager Heather MacNeill said.
Participating students used software from the data-analytics company Data Watch, as well as the IBM Watson Analytics software to analyze data sets related to demographics of the upcoming presidential election.
“We started at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, and the support teams from DataWatch and IBM each did a workshop on their respective software and how you can use the data within them,” MacNeill explained.
At around 3:30 p.m, the students completed the workshops and began the competition itself.
“We provided core data-sets and gave them to the students right before they started,” MacNeill said. “And so they’re using those data sets and finding their own way to come up with what they think is the most insightful analysis of the demographics.”
ECenter staff members and the representatives from Data-Watch and IBM left the building around 11 p.m., while some teams competing in the event continued to work there.
The winning team didn’t leave until approximately 3 a.m., and at least one team stayed overnight completing the analysis.
The staff members returned to the ECenter around 8 a.m. on Saturday. A breakfast was provided to the event’s attendees, featuring large helpings of bacon, sausage, fruit, muffins and coffee.
By 10 a.m. each of the teams was required to present their analysis results via PowerPoint to MacNeill. She then distributed copies of presentations to each of the three judges: Political Science professor and UNH survey center Director Andrew Smith, DataWatch Chief Marketing Executive Dan Potter and IBM Educational Administrator Laura Trouvais.
According to MacNeill, the judges looked for whether the software was utilized to the best potential along with the results of the total analysis when deciding on the winning team.
“It’s very similar to any kind of class. There’s a rubric that we will be using to grade,” Trouvais said. “But basically we’re really looking for the use of the products, and how efficient everything is presented.”
Though the judges were initially expected to declare the winner within an hour after receiving the PowerPoints, it took an extra 30 minutes until they reached a decision.
At approximately 11:30 a.m. group six was announced the winner. Composed of T.J. Evarts, Max Miller, Brandon Allen and Sam Warach, the group’s PowerPoint focused on the possibility for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to win the populous vote.
Later that afternoon, three members of the winning group were en route to the conference in Las Vegas while one received a consolation prize.

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