Normandale Data Science Students compete in MinneMUDAC Data Challenge

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Normandale Community College Data Science instructor Yeng Miller-Chang worked with DSCI 2000 students Trenton Cahoon, Steven Christiansen, Seth Koepcke and Nathan Peach to compete in the MinneMUDAC data analytics competition hosted by MinneAnalytics on November 9 at Optum in Eden Prairie.

Normandale competed in the Undergraduate division of the competition, which is a category for teams with advanced data management, data programming, and statistical analytic skills to support predictive modeling. Farm Femmes, who are advocates for the use of technology for agriculture solutions, provided questions and data for the competition.

The challenge presented to the teams was to predict soybean futures prices and to decide at what price to sell based on the data and questions that were provided. The students who participated in this event were all part of the Data Science (DSCI 2000) course that is being taught by Miller-Chang for the first time in the 2019 fall semester. The class aims to take one semester of programming and some knowledge of statistics and push students to practice the tools used in the workplace.

Koepcke enjoyed taking on the complexities of a real situation as part of the data challenge and found the experience invaluable.

"I wanted to experience what a real-world situation would be like, and I wouldn't expect any classroom with homework problems would come close," said Koepcke. "This course and the preparation for the competition helped me to understand what the possibilities would be like, and how complex things could be. This was a comprehensive assessment of my skills."

The DSCI 2000 class developed by Miller-Chang has taken a very hands-on practical approach to understand data science, having students learn topics more typically taught over many classes. Miller-Chang keeps up to date with current-day technology making sure the tools used in practice: a production-level SQL Server database, R and GitHub (which will be GitLab in the spring) are what is used in the class. Peach appreciated the insights the course provided on data science.

"The DSCI 2000 class helped me understand what the industry is like and gave me a good feeling about the field I chose to pursue," said Peach. "It proved to me that I made the right decision because I am enjoying the work."

Students also enjoyed the problem solving and project-based style of the class.

"This class isn't your usual bottom-up learning style," said Cahoon. "It blends a top-down approach that builds off the prerequisites in a practical and intuitive way. It is a lot less memorization and more problem solving; instilling a necessary understanding of how to work with the abstract complexity of data."

Registration is open for the spring semester 2020 online offering of DSCI 2000. If you have any questions, contact Yeng Miller-Chang at