Penn State Data Analytics Challenge

The Penn State Data Analytics Challenge Committee is pleased to announce that we will host the first data analytics contest event virtually within the Penn State community this spring.  

The dataset consists of over 40 years of federal payroll records (nearly 30 gigabytes).

Individuals or teams of up to 3 members can participate in this university-wide contest. Each final analysis report should include at least two parts:

  1. Descriptive exploration: Challengers should fully explore the dataset and clearly describe the data with exploratory findings.
  2. Address, but not necessarily be limited to, the following questions: Are there any patterns for federal career trajectories over the last 40 years? Consider the data aggregately and on an individual agency basis (for at least one chosen agency). How did individual education background impact one’s career trajectory?  

Source codes should also be submitted, which might be shared to the public after the contest. A brief description on how to run your source codes or packaged solutions, including the setup configuration, should be attached with your submission.

Eligibility Requirements and Participant Guidelines:

  • The challenge is open to all Penn State students: undergraduate or graduate, resident or online, and full-time or part-time.
  • Submitted solutions MUST represent original work.
  • If you are interested in this contest, please email Prof. Robin Qiu at [email protected] with your team (individual or group) information (name, degree, department, PSU access ID) by February 28. 

Award Selection Process:

The evaluation process will be conducted in two steps:

  1. Finalists will be first chosen by the Award Committee by April 15.
  2. Finalists are expected to make a short video presenting their analysis. The Award Committee will then select the final contest winner and honorable mentions. The results will be announced by the end of the spring semester.


  • Registration: February 28
  • Analysis report: March 31
  • Video presentation (the finalists only): April 30

Where to submit:

Robin Qiu. Data Analytics Challenge Committee Chair, [email protected].

Both insights and visualization will be evaluated for the Award:

  • All finalists will receive an award certificate.
  • The winner (1) will receive $800.
  • Honorable mentions (2) will receive $350.
  • Award money will be divided equally among the team members. 

Award Committee:

  • Jason Acimovic (Smeal)
  • Saurabh Bansal (Smeal-SC&IS)
  • Adrian Barb (Data Analytics)
  • Guoray Cai (College of Information Sciences and Technology)
  • Terry Harrison (Smeal, SC&IS)
  • Ashkan Negahban (Engineering Management)
  • Robin Qiu (Data Analytics)
  • Kathleen Riley (Smeal, SC&IS)
  • Chris Solo (Smeal, SC&IS)
  • Satish Srinivasan (Data Analytics)
  • Hui Yang (Industrial Engineering)
  • Tao Yao (Industrial Engineering)