The American Statistical Association DataFest is a celebration of data in which teams of undergraduates work around the clock to find and share meaning in a large, rich, and complex dataset.
DataFest was founded at UCLA in 2011 when thirty students gathered for forty-eight intense hours to help fight crime through an analysis of every arrest record of the last five years as provided by Lieutenant Thomas Zak of the Los Angeles Police Department. DataFest is now sponsored by the American Statistical Association and is hosted by several of the most prestigious colleges and universities around the country and involves over 500 students. In 2014, teams came from UCLA, Pomona College, CalPoly San Luis Obispo, UC Riverside, University of Southern California, Duke, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Emory, Princeton, Dartmouth, Smith, Hampshire, Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, the University of Massachusetts, and now the Rochester Institute of Technology.
A key feature of DataFest is that it gathers together the data science community. Undergraduate students do the work, but they are assisted by roving consultants who are graduate students, faculty, and industry professionals. Many professionals find DataFest to be a great recruiting opportunity; they get to watch talented undergraduate students work under pressure in a team and examine their thinking process.
After two days of intense data wrangling, analysis, and presentation design, each team is allowed only a few minutes and no more than two slides to impress a panel ofjudges. Prizes are given for Best in Show, Best Visualization, and Best Use of External Data.