May 14, 2021

Undergrads Excel in ‘Renewable Energy’ Datathon

Industry Experts Help Coach, Evaluate Maryland Smith Students Through 2-Week Analytics Competition

A team of Maryland Smith undergraduates from an "Introduction to Optimization" class earned first place in the annual Datathon organized by the Smith Analytics Consortium (SAC) with support from Deloitte.

The competition, which concluded on April 30, 2021, was virtual and consisted of 12 student teams representing undergraduate, MBA, and MS (marketing analytics and information systems) programs.

The students, over two weeks, used problem-solving, analytics and data visualization skills to build a market entry business case for a renewable energy (photovoltaic solar array) company in Maryland. They were coached by Maryland Smith faculty representing the departments of decision, operations and information technologies (Gisela Bardossy, Suresh Acharya, Kunpeng Zhang and Ashish Kabra) and marketing (Bruno Jacobs, Michael Trusov and Lingling Zhang).

The winning team, which took away a $500 first prize, includes students Alexander Leipold, Varsha Ramachandran, Faaiq Zarger, Marianne Benyamin and Adina Arnet.

"This year's competition epitomizes, especially in our undergraduate program, a high level of analytics that's being taught, coupled with attention to 'softer' team and communications skills," says Wedad Elmaghraby, professor of operations management and management science, and SAC co-director.

Elmaghraby judged the final presentations, along with industry experts Alexa Aranjo, John Vogel, Viresh Shah and Alex Foley – the latter three representing Deloitte.

The Datathon, Elmaghraby says, also exemplifies the SAC mission to facilitate innovation in analytics among students, faculty and industry professionals, through networking, thought leadership and collaboration.

Collectively, the judges were impressed with the students' quality and depth of analysis in a net-new industry within a condensed timeline, Elmaghraby says.

"Presenting analytical results is more art than science to effectively present the quantitative approaches along with supporting qualitative items," Elmaghraby adds, reiterating the judges' overall feedback to the students from the judges. "There's no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to achieve this balance and it comes with experience; you all now have started the journey building muscle memory."

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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