The Best-in-Showcase prize at the University of Chicago Graham School Master of Science in Analytics Capstone Showcase on Saturday, March 11th, which took place at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center, was won by Michael Band, Carlos Moya, and Chris Yacu for their project entitled “Dynamic Decision-Making and the Market for NFL Picks.” Supervised by Nick Kodochnikov and with Lander Analytics as their industry sponsor, the team’s project explored the market value of NFL draft picks, estimated the expected value of player performance as a function of draft order, and ultimately proposed a dynamic strategy to support trade negotiation in real-time. The team received the best-in-show prize of $5,000, which they can use towards attendance at analytics-related conferences.
“It was a great pleasure to see the many successful presentations at the Showcase Event,” said Sema Barlas, Director of the MScA program, as well as a member of the jury conferring the best-in-show prize with Angelo Mancini, Boris Zibitsker, and Benedict Augustine. “The jury felt that the winning presentation demonstrated superior competency in understanding their problem and in developing the analytics tools to provide a comprehensive solution.”
Receiving honorable mention for their projects were Ed Levinson, Matthew Myers, and Pacifique Niwenshuti for “RegTech: Improving Regulatory Compliance through Machine Learning,” as well as Suja Murali and Sneha Srinatha for “HealthStatus.com - Consumer Profiling.” Nichole Urigashvili’s project, “Shopper Fission: Segmenting Shoppers into Meaningful Groups,” was also singled out for special mention.
“It is a gratifying conclusion to nine months of hard work for Carlos, Chris, and me,” said Michael, who graduated from the MScA program this winter and is currently positioning himself for an analytics role with an NFL team. “It was a passion project for us and we became close friends while working on it. We received a lot of valuable advice along the way from our faculty advisor and our industry sponsor, as well as from all the MScA faculty who assisted us in modeling our data and bringing our project together.”
Michael pointed in particular to the challenge his team confronted while compiling their presentation for the Showcase, highlighting the valuable experience and insights the work brought them in the form of distilling a highly-specialized and knowledge-rich project for a particular audience.
“The most important thing is that you capture your audience’s attention,” he said. “Sema was instrumental in conveying the importance of that to us. For an MScA audience who might not be too familiar with the rules of NFL football, or if you’re presenting to a room of NFL execs who don’t know about data modeling or beta regressions, the key in both these cases is not to overwhelm your audience with information. You have to calibrate your presentation while still ensuring that you present your case clearly and forcefully.”
Adding to Michael’s point, Suja Murali pointed to the value of the Capstone Project in general as an important way to get real-world exposure to big data, with all the data cleaning and formatting such work involves. Her and Sneha Srinatha’s project, which was praised by the jury for its actionable results and the clarity of its methodological selection, sought to identify and predict customer segments for the Indianapolis-based HealthStatus, an online company whose mission is to enable people to track their health by providing interactive health risk tools and calculators.
“The capstone project is a great way to experience a true work environment and the unique challenges you’ll face there,” Suja said, who is presently deciding between three employment offers. “The assignments we complete in class are great for gaining familiarity with the different tools, but when it comes to starting from the ground and converting a messy business problem into a complex analytical solution, the Capstone Project provides MScA students with invaluable experience.”