More than 200 university undergraduate students will compete in UCLA’s 2015 DataFest competition, which takes place April 24-26 and is sponsored by the American Statistical Association (ASA). Students from UCLA, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Pomona College, UC Riverside, and USC will have 48 hours to interpret and analyze a large, complex data set. The event will be held from 6 p.m. that Friday to 6 p.m. that Sunday, in UCLA’s DeNeve Plaza.

Students with strong quantitative and analytical skills — from fields including mathematics, statistics, engineering, computer science and social sciences — will compete for awards, prizes and the interest of employers, who recruit at the annual competition. This year’s DataFest will be the fifth.

Each year, the data and the challenge are different, but the theme remains making sense of vast, complex data sets, commonly known as “big data.” The particular data set will not be unveiled until the start of the competition. 

The first DataFest consisted of 10 million arrest records spanning five years, provided by the Los Angeles Police Department. Other data sets have been provided by micro-lending site, online dating service eHarmony, and GridPoint, a company that offers data-driven energy management systems that enable customers to increase energy savings and promote environmental sustainability.

“This unique program takes data-analysis learning beyond the constraints normally encountered in a typical statistical science course by enabling the students to work on real data sets of substantial size, in a unique collaboration among academe, students and industry,” said Robert Gould, founder of ASA DataFest, a faculty member and vice chair of UCLA’s department of statistics and director of UCLA’s Center of Teaching Statistics.

Each team presents its findings to a panel of judges comprising professors, distinguished alumni, data science professionals, and representatives of the company or organization that provides the data for the competition.

In the four years since the first ASA DataFest, many students developed contacts with employers that led to internships and full-time jobs, Gould said.

ASA’s DataFest program is being held at seven universities across the country. UCLA’s competition is the largest.

Organizations and businesses interested in supporting, sponsoring or participating in ASA DataFest may contact Gould at