Case competition challenges teams to tell stories with data

As demand for data analytics skills continues to grow in a number of sectors, a new case competition is allowing students to flex their muscles in the field.

Created by a group of current and past Brock University students, the Datathon 2019 Sustainability Development Challenge invites teams to showcase effective storytelling using data. 

The competition, open to post-secondary and high school students of any background and skill level, will focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The targets, set forth by the international organization, address global challenges such as those related to poverty, inequality, climate and environmental degradation.

Teams of three will be challenged to identify a smaller problem or topic within one of five SDGs selected by event organizers, and develop a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on the issue. They will use their data analytics skills to problem-solve and tell a story.

The case competition is an expansion of the annual student-run Datathon held each fall at Brock University.

Organizers of both events include Nour Hage, a fourth-year Political Science and History major; Thomas Lillo, a fourth-year Geography major with a minor in Computer Science; Conrad Lipiec, a fourth-year Economics major; and alumnus Shakti Pradhan (MBA ’17), who now works as a financial analyst with CIBC.

With two successful years of Datathon under their belt and a third set for November, organizers began looking at ways they could enhance their offerings to students. While the conference is filled with valuable information for beginner- and intermediate-level data enthusiasts, it offers little in the way of competition, Hage said.

To reach students with some experience in the analytics field, a case competition was created that will allow them to test and highlight their skills, he said.

The competition’s case brief will be released Sept. 1, identifying the five United Nations SDGs teams will base their presentations around. Participants will have until Oct. 13 to submit their entries online through

Judges, including Brock faculty members and staff from The Co-operators, will review all entries and choose five teams to deliver live presentations at an event in Toronto Nov. 2.

Teams who rank in the Top 3 following the in-person presentations will each receive a portion of a $6,000 prize pool. The competition’s first-place winners will also be given a 10-minute speaking spot in front of dozens of company executives at this year’s Datathon at Brock Nov. 9.

“We don’t know what the appetite is for something like this but we’re anticipating a good turnout,” Hage said. Teams from Brock as well as other universities have already begun signing up for the competition, which is sponsored by Brock and The Co-operators.

Hage said Brock University, its senior administration and faculty have been essential in supporting Datathon and the latest case competition expansion.

“They want to encourage data analytics and promote this field,” he said, adding organizers have received guidance along the way from Business Professor Anteneh Ayanso, who leads the University’s Centre for Business Analytics, and Adjunct Economics Professor Roelof Makken.

Hage said Brock, with its innovative analytics centre launched in 2017 and business analytics specialization introduced to the Master of Business Administration program in 2014, has long acknowledged the importance of the big data boom. Knowing the University’s history, it seemed a fitting collaborator for Datathon and its offshoots, he said.

“There’s no reason why Brock University shouldn’t be recognized for this progressive thinking.”

Teams can sign up for the case competition by visiting

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