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FHU Data Analytics Team Wins Award for Best Insight in DC DataFest

Henderson, TN - May 03, 2022

A newly formed data analytics team from the Freed-Hardeman University College of Business won one of the three top prizes in its first intercollegiate competition.

Judges in the 2022 DC DataFest gave FHU the award for Best Insight, noting that the team had “mature and profound” observations that would be useful for a professional data practitioner.

Competing against schools like Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and William & Mary, the five-member FHU team had less than 48 hours to analyze a dataset from the Yale School of Medicine that had more than 2 million rows; event organizers described it as “one of the more open-ended and complex challenges DataFest has provided” and said the data had not previously been studied in-depth.

Team members included:

  • Grant Hunter (team lead), a junior mathematics major from Titusville, Florida;

  • Coy Baker, a junior business analytics and mathematics dual major from Burlington, Kentucky;

  • Dawson Carter, a junior business analytics major from Columbia, Tennessee;

  • Lexi Hearn, a sophomore financial planning major from Kingston Springs, Tennessee; and

  • Tyler Stafko, a sophomore business analytics and sports administration dual major from Freeburg, Illinois

FHU’s business analytics program started the team this semester, and Charlie Smith, an FHU business faculty member who serves as program coordinator for business analytics, said the main goal was to introduce students to the competition with hopes of contending for a prize next year.

“The students put an extraordinary amount of work into this very challenging project, and for them to win in their inaugural year while competing against some elite universities shows how talented and dedicated our students are,” Smith said. “They’re excited to see their efforts be recognized, and I’m very proud of them.”

The American Statistical Association sponsors DataFest, which involves teams of undergraduates working around the clock over a weekend to analyze a private and complicated real-world dataset. The first was held at UCLA in 2011, and regional competitions have since sprung up all over the country. Sponsors include internet giant Google and R Studio, a popular statistical software package.

The DC DataFest was held virtually this year, which allowed it to include both universities from the Washington D.C. area and those from farther away.

This year’s data for all the U.S. regional competitions came from a video game designed by Yale researchers to teach adolescents how to make good decisions about engaging in risky behaviors.

Students received the information Friday evening, April 22 and worked throughout the day Saturday into the early hours Sunday to analyze it and prepare a presentation, which is limited by competition rules to two slides and a five-minute video. Judges only award three prizes -- Best Insight, Best Visualization, and Best Statistical Model – and there are no runners up recognized.

The Freed-Hardeman team’s key insight was that the data indicated students who participated in the Yale research merely got more proficient at playing the game but did not improve in their ability to make better life decisions.

The team was intentionally composed of underclassmen so they could be prepared for next year’s event, and Smith said his three- to five-year plan is for FHU to explore hosting a regional DataFest, noting that none are currently held in Tennessee.

To learn more about the FHU business analytics program, visit or email