Scotiabank Data Science Discovery Days encourages real-life problem-solving

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Winning students post in front of a screen reading "Scotiabank Data Science Discovery Days"

More than a hundred students spent the weekend working in teams learning to detect fraud as part of the inaugural Scotiabank Data Science Discovery Days competition.

The event, which took place virtually and in Mathematics 3 from January 20th to January 22nd, invited teams of students from across campus to analyze large amounts of data in a project that mimics the real world work they would do in data science careers.

“Scotiabank and the University of Waterloo share a passion for innovation,” says Yannick Lallement, Scotiabank’s Vice President for Corporate Functions Analytics and AI/ML Solutions. “We are pleased to partner with UW on programs that encourage students to engage with applied data and analytics. The enthusiasm, creativity, and technical skills that UW brought to this challenge impressed me a great deal.”

At the end of the weekend, teams submitted their slide decks and write-ups, with the strongest submissions being chosen to present to a panel of judges. The teams were judged not just on the strength of their data analysis but also on their general critical thinking and presentation design. Ultimately, Scotiabank gave away $8000 in prize money: $2000 to the first prize winners, two second prizes of $1500, and three third prizes of $1000. The winning teams were:

First Place:

  • Zero to Infinity: Rithika Shivakumar (MMath Data Science and Artificial Intelligence), Yaxian Alex Bie (MMath Computer Science), Austing Dong (BMath Computer Science), Joe Yu (Software Engineering), and Sarah Wilson (BMath Computer Science)

Second Place:

  • Team DC: Cher Chen (FARM and Statistics) and Disen Liao (BMath Computer Science and Statistics)
  • 3K1F: JV Afable (MMath Statistics), Dongyoung Danny Kim (MMath Statistics), Dongha Lee (MMath Actuarial Science), and Sohoon Young (MMath Statistics)

Third Place:

  • B4U: Fanghe Lin, Peiyi Zheng, Tao Shan, and Yuxuan Liu (all MDSAI)
  • Black Noise: Ziyue Lin (BMath Statistics), Kang Yao (BMath FARM & Statistics), and Xiangru Tan (BMath Data Science)
  • Weekend Deep Sleeping: Zirong Huang, Yuqing Chen, Jianing Zhang, and Ziyang Guo (all MDSAI)

Data Science Discovery Days was originally planned for 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was postponed to 2023. Corporate-sponsored events like this one, explains Nathaniel Stevens, the Undergraduate Data Science program director, are important, because they allow businesses to connect with interested students while also allowing students a glimpse into what their work will look like after graduation. “They’re working on a problem that is technically challenging and mimics the kind of thing they would see in real life,” he explains. “It’s a little messier and more open-ended than what they see in the classroom.”

In addition to the challenge weekend itself, Scotiabank also held both in-person and virtual networking events on January 18th and 19th, allowing students to ask questions and learn about daily life as a data scientist.

students pose for a photo

“Having these industry professionals see potential in us and recognize us for it was probably the most inspiring moment of the hackathon,” says Sarah Wilson, an undergraduate Computer Science student and member of the winning team.

“I found the challenge a lot of fun,” agrees Alex Bie, a master’s of Computer Science student and Wilson’s teammate. “The organizers from Waterloo and Scotiabank did a great job in putting together an interesting and open-ended problem.”

To learn more about the event, click here. If you enjoyed Data Science Discovery Days, or missed this one but would like to get involved in future events, check out the Statistics and Actuarial Science events page for information on upcoming events like April 28’s DataFest.