For students interested in a career in analytics, there’s no better preparation than solving real-world problems using “big data” sets. At SAS Global Forum 2016, students will have an opportunity to showcase their analytical skills by competing in the SAS Student Symposium. The symposium, a new initiative of the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board (SGUGEB) and SAS, is a competition where teams of students and a faculty mentor will access “big” public data sets to answer a question of their choice using SAS software.
I recently sat down with SGUGEB member Kenneth Koonce to learn more about the symposium and how it benefits students and the analytics community.
Larry LaRusso: The SAS Student Symposium sounds like a really great opportunity for students. Can you tell us a little about the competition?
Kenneth Koonce: The Student Symposium is a tremendous opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and expertise in extracting meaningful information from masses of data. Teams of between two and four students, along with a faculty advisor, will define a problem and then, utilizing SAS, execute appropriate analysis to solve that problem. They'll then need to submit a formal paper describing the problem, the methodology, results and conclusion. Submissions will be evaluated and ranked by a panel of analytics professionals. The top eight teams will then compete in the finals with oral presentations at SAS Global Forum in Las Vegas in April.
Larry LaRusso: Who is eligible to participate?
Kenneth Koonce: Full-time students studying at accredited universities or colleges may compete. A team must consist of two, but no more than four, students and may be coached by a faculty advisor. All work and interpretation must be done by the student team. Students at any level (bachelors, masters or doctoral) may participate and they may come from any discipline or major.
Larry LaRusso: Why would students want to participate? What benefits do they receive for competing?
Kenneth Koonce: For starters, students get to use the latest and most complete version of SAS and will have the opportunity to learn by employing the latest analytics methodology. The top eight teams and their advisor will be invited to SAS Global Forum to present their results and each will have expenses of up to $3,000 provided to cover travel and hotel. In addition, they'll receive complimentary registration and each of the top eight teams and their advisor are eligible for a free half-day pre- or post-conference tutorial. Finalists will also be given a 60% off coupon to purchase a SAS book either at the conference or online. And, the top 8 teams will be recognized at the SAS Global Forum Academic Summit that will be held prior to the competition.
Finally, the top three teams will receive SAS Certification exam vouchers, a prep guide book and a voucher for a free seat in an online SAS Certification prep course.
Larry LaRusso: Do sponsoring universities get any recognition?
Kenneth Koonce: Yes, the sponsoring universities of each of the top three teams in the finals will be awarded SAS Academic Training Points. First place gets 2,000 points worth $4,000, second place 1,500 points worth $3,000 and the third place 1,000 points worth $2,000.
Larry LaRusso: Has the problem been decided upon? If so, what’s the topic and where can students get the data?
Kenneth Koonce: That’s what’s so exciting about this competition. There is not an assigned data set, problem or topic. Eight massive data sets are available to students and the team will choose the data and define the problem they want to work on. All of these data sets, along with the latest version of SAS, will be available on the Amazon Web Services (AWS). Students do not have to download data and will be able do data preparation and analysis directly on the AWS.
Editor's Note: Public data available for this competition include:
- Apache Software Foundation Public Mail Archives
- Department of Energy Time Series
- Enron Email Data
- Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
- Google Book Ngrams
- Medicare Payment Data
- USA Spending
Larry LaRusso: Are you going to share the winning papers?
Kenneth Koonce: We will. All of the final teams will have 20 minutes to present their paper at SAS Global Forum 2016. The papers will be available via proceedings after the conference as well.
Larry LaRusso: All this sounds great. So, if I’m a student, how can I learn more about the competition?
Kenneth Koonce: Visit the website. Here, you can learn about the official rules, the data sources and register your team. Registration for the SAS Student Symposium closes October 31, 2015, so students should learn more and register soon.