Harvey Mudd Teams Place First and Second in Global Datathon

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What could be better than a team of Harvey Mudd College first years winning the top prize at Citadel’s West Coast Data Open? That same team winning the Datathon Global Championship as sophomores.

When they won the regional competition more than a year ago, Milo Knell ’25 (CS/math), Alan Wu ’25 (CS/math), David Chen ’25 (CS) and Forrest Bicker ’25 (CS/math) received a $10,000 cash prize and interview offers at Citadel, a leading alternative investment manager, and qualified for the Global Championship, which gave them the chance to compete against 21 top teams for a $100,000 cash prize. The other competing HMC team (which placed third in the West Coast Regional, Sahil Rane ’25, Baltazar Zuniga-Ruiz ’25, Karina Walker ’25 and Shahnawaz Mogal ’25 (University of Arizona) won second place in the global competition.

Competitors included undergraduates, graduate students and PhD students from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, UPenn, Cornell, Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia, Brown and Duke.

The competition’s problem statement and data set were released on Nov. 30, 2022. Teams then had four days to pose a novel research question, answer it using mathematic, statistical and computational modeling and then write a technical report detailing their methods and findings.

“Our task was, given massive amounts of data with hundreds of features on colleges, analyze the data and gain insights about post-secondary education in the U.S.” the team says. “We were interested in exploring questions relevant to us. We decided to investigate college outcomes from a financial standpoint, combining findings on student earnings and debt. Bringing together many disparate findings was a challenge, but the judges liked our variety of findings.”

The team members attribute their success in part to the mentorship of several professors. “We’re thankful to Pitzer College economics professor Linus Yamane, who taught us many of the techniques we used in our investigation and inspired our appreciation for rigorous traditional statistical modeling. We also appreciate the Harvey Mudd community, especially our research advisors, computer science professors George Montañez and Lucas Bang for their ongoing mentorship and support.”

The team is looking forward to more adventures, and notes that “the Data Open Championship was an incredible opportunity to put our love of mathematical analysis to work exploring important questions about our world.”

A detailed recap of the event can be found on Bicker’s website.