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How the applied analytics club aims to make data science accessible to everyone

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Since its inception on campus last fall quarter, the Applied Analytics Club at UW (AACUW) has grown to include over 500 people on its mailing list, from departments all over campus.

This quarter, AACUW took their mission of making data analytics accessible to everyone one step further when they hosted a case competition in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Over 60 students applied to be in the case competition, and 30 of them were accepted to form six teams. 

Applicants were asked about major technical and social skills they could bring to the table to form teams from diverse backgrounds. 

“A lot of these students were able to collaborate and create connections with people they wouldn’t normally be able to,” founder and current president Nick Stoner said.

“Our mission as a club is to bridge the gap between business, social sciences, and the more technical majors. This was an example of a time when were able to do that successfully.”

The case competition, which kicked off Oct. 30, required teams to work together to solve problems. In addition to being from diverse majors, each team had a mix of ages, from undergrad to graduate students.

Teams were presented with a large dataset of customer information from a power company client. The problem was a high customer return rate, so students were tasked with figuring out why customers were leaving based on the information in the dataset and suggesting mitigation strategies to the company. Some of the solutions that were presented included an app that would offer discounts and a loyalty program for long-term customers. 

“I’m a business major, so some of the things that stood out to me were how people from different majors analyze things differently,” Nick Fang, an officer of AACUW, said. “This was a great way for people to find their niche and how they can contribute to a team.” 

The case competition not only provided students with a collaborative experience, but also provided them with professional resources. 

Teams met with a coach from BCG each week for advice and help on their projects. During the final presentations Nov. 21, where teams presented their solutions for the power company, they had the opportunity to get feedback and connect with senior consultants from BCG.

For AACUW, which was started by undergraduate students Stoner and Thomas Khoo, this case competition was a large step in the right direction for the club’s mission: connecting different disciplines “using one holistic view of analytics.”

“There was a lot of trial and error,” Fang said. “To start off we just kind of wrote what a membership involved, did our workshops, and rectified things as we went based on the feedback we got and what our members were looking for from us.”

Now, however, AACUW is in a position to reach more departments and students with their mission of collaboration with others. 

“In the future, we want to engage with other companies like Boston Consulting Group and other tech and business companies to give students a full picture of what analytics is and where it’s going,” Stoner said. “I think there’s a huge need for data science and analytics in college, specifically at UW. The way it is right now, it’s very departmental and segmented.”

In future quarters the club hopes to do more workshops, have more guest speakers, do more case comps, and collaborate with other RSOs like the UW Actuarial Club

“We’re trying to connect with more departments so that every student knows how accessible data analytics is,” Stoner said. 

Reach writer Divya Rajasekhar at Twitter: @divraj16

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