UCLA DataFest 2017: Embracing the big data era

Five UCLA students who are organizing the 2017 DataFest

Eric Schmidt of Google encapsulated the big data era by illustrating the speed at which information is gathered today — there were five exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilisation through 2003, but that much information is now created every two days.

Data management and analysis has become the new literacy and the cornerstone of business operations, political campaigns, and social causes today. Amidst the growing importance of data, the 7th ASA DataFest at UCLA organised by UCLA students carries with it an educational mission to instill in participants an appreciation for a data-driven problem solving approach. In fact, data is never just about numbers; it represents puzzle pieces that together tell the stories of individuals, firms, and societies. As such, we want this year’s DataFest participants to unleash their curiosity and creativity and craft compelling narratives from their datasets.  

For three days, from May 5-7, 2017 , students, working in teams of four to five members, will delve into a massive amount of data and seek meaning out of it. They will have to work well in a group and make use of each other’s strengths. For example, a computer science student could contribute coding skills while a humanities student could play a more active role in stringing the data together to form cogent arguments. Students will also have the opportunity to receive professional advice from a panel of judges, including engineers, computer scientists, statisticians, and social scientists, who will be on the ground constantly to offer help.  

This year, as we started planning for the 7th ASA DataFest, we asked ourselves: What else can we do to better support our participants? It’s a new challenge every year for the organising team as we are confronted with fresh problems and the desire to improve ourselves.

We decided that we want to create a much more seamless process, offering more guidance ranging from team formation, coding workshops, to career development. We realised that some of our past participants had difficulty meeting like-minded people and forming teams. Hence this year, we decided to hold a social mixer together with a workshop on programming language, R, to facilitate team formation. Interested students could learn coding while mingling, discovering others with whom they work well. At the same time, we want to regain our focus on students’ career development. So, we are organising a career fair where our sponsors, including PwC and Tableau, will set up booths for students to learn more about them. Recruiters may also come down to spot budding talent!  


Post a comment if you have any questions, or share an idea or two.


About the Author

Krystal Xu is a first-year statistics and business economics student at UCLA who is passionate about integrating statistics with business models. DataFest is the first large-scale event she is planning at UCLA and she is very excited to see how it will turn out. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the culinary and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, California.


  1. Jennifer Brown 4 years ago

    This sounds interesting! As a psychology major we have to know about statistics and this would be something I would like to know more about!

  2. Victoria Bankowski 4 years ago

    Great blog . I think this is a path that each of us has to travel in research. Coming from a research university statitstics is mandatory.

  3. Katie L 4 years ago

    This genuinely sounds like a really fun event! All the best!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *