Students demonstrate data analytics, text mining and visualization skills in Elon Champion Analytics Challenge

Teams analyzed data provided by HanesBrands, a socially responsible manufacturer and marketer of leading everyday basic apparel.

Fourteen interdisciplinary teams of Elon undergraduate students participated in the inaugural Elon Champion Analytics Challenge. The Center for Organizational Analytics and HanesBrands partnered to offer the competition, which culminated in presentations to faculty, students, staff and HanesBrands employees on Oct. 5.

Noah Brown ’19, Aidan Draper ’18, Jack Redpath ’19, Assistant Professor Steve Bednar and Dean Parsons with the HanesBrands judges.
Over the course of two weeks, teams worked on a real business case from HanesBrands, which involved text mining and creating predictive analytics models of HanesBrands sales and online reviews data. Teams presented their analyses and recommended solutions to a panel of HanesBrands executives, who evaluated the presentations on quality of the solution, methodology/modeling and quality of the presentation delivery. 

“In class, we are given problems with known solutions that usually work out, but this was different,” said Aidan Draper, who was a member of the first-place team. “Two of our algorithms ended up not leading us to results we could pursue. We were therefore forced to find other solutions. It was an exciting and eye-opening experience.”

Draper, a computer science major, worked with teammates Jack Redpath, a computer science major, and Noah Brown, an economics major. The team, who was mentored by Assistant Professor of Economics Steve Bednar, reflected the challenge’s focus on encouraging students from different academic backgrounds to work together to solve a case.

“What makes this challenge unique is that it brings students and faculty from various schools together in form of interdisciplinary teams, and strengthens collaborations across the campus,” said Assistant Professor Mostafa Mesgari, who co-chaired the challenge with Associate Professor Haya Ajjan. “The students did an amazing job impressing the faculty and corporate judges with high quality analytics, visualizations and practical recommendations.”

The top teams:

First Place

Noah Brown ’19, economics major
Aidan Draper ’18, computer science major
Jack Redpath ’19, computer science major
Mentor: Steve Bednar, assistant professor of economics

Second Place

Drew Johnson ’18, finance major
Howard Huang ’18, finance major
Alejandro Ramos ’19, strategic communications major
Mentor: Adam Aiken, assistant professor of finance

Third Place

Katherine Wray ’18, information science and management double major
Matthew Snow ’18, finance and entrepreneurship double major
Alexandra Grascz ’18, applied mathematics and computer science double major
Mentor: Michael Gannaway, Love School of Business Executive-in-Residence

Honorable Mention

Jasmine Jones ’19, computer science major
Tatum Hanisak ’18, marketing major
Nicole Ciotoli ’18, mathematics and statistics double major
Mentor: Mostafa Mesgari, assistant professor of management information systems

Katie Carter ’18, entrepreneurship major
Libbi Grigg ’18, management major
Samantha Troeller ’18, media analytics major
Mentor: Rosey Bao, assistant professor of strategic management

While the recommendations from the teams varied, HanesBrands found the approaches insightful and plans to incorporate them into the company’s strategy.

“The quality of the analytics, findings, recommendations, and presentations were simply outstanding,” said Ben Martin, chief analytics officer for HanesBrands. “I found something from each team that we will carry forward for advancement.”

The Elon Champion Analytics Challenge was sponsored by the School of Communications, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

“The students were incredibly impressive,” said Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications. “I was blown away at their ability to analyze a huge data set with just two weeks’ notice, discover trends, create visual analytics, and make meaningful recommendations to professionals.”

In addition to a cash prize, the first-place team will receive sponsorship to participate in a national analytics case competition.

The Center for Organizational Analytics serves as a hub to bring together faculty, students and industry thought leaders to disseminate best analytics practices, solve organizational problems, and promote teaching, outreach and research in the area of analytics. The center accomplishes this through student projects, consulting and professional training to demonstrate how analytics can be used to provide solutions for problems faced by organizations today.