Teams from Northwestern University and the Georgia Institute of Technology won the inaugural Krannert-Walmart Data Dive on the campus of Purdue University on April 2-3. Each team took home $5,000 in prize money.
A total of 17 teams from 11 universities took part in the competition. Graduate and undergraduate students used Walmart trend data and were tasked with developing solutions in two areas—customer segmentation and providing products for efficient shelf space usage.
Several Walmart executives were on hand for the 24-hour competition, including Karenann Terrell, executive vice president and chief information officer.
“You won’t find the kind of commitment these students displayed during the competition very often,” Terrell said. “I was incredibly impressed by the breadth and insight of the questions we were asked.”
For Northwestern student Eric Lundquist, who was part of the winning team in customer segmentation, the competition provided real-world perspective to what he is learning in the classroom.
“Statistics are only useful in the extent to which they provide business value and can be communicated clearly and understood fully. We spend a lot of time considering the business value and actionability of our approach, which is something that doesn’t always come up in some of our more technical academic coursework,” Lundquist said.
One of the groups, Team O-Mazing, sent by the Georgia Tech Business Analytics Center, took first place in the predictive analytics track of the competition, surpassing seven teams from other universities that also participated.
Georgia Tech’s Brian Burns said his team found the large amount of information allowed them to drill deeper into the company’s issues. “I’ve had experience with data-driven decisions prior to this competition, but what Walmart’s data set highlighted is that strategic decisions can become more granular as the volume and variety of information becomes larger,” Burns said.
In addition to the winning schools and the host team from Purdue, the competitors included entries from Indiana University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Rochester and University of Texas-Dallas.
The competition is believed to be the first data dive on a college campus. It was organized by Mohammad Rahman, associate professor of management at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, and was the first major activity conducted by Purdue’s Business Information and Analytics Center.