Build a chatbot, win a chatbot. That was the experience for a team of LeBow students who were awarded first place in the college’s annual analytics competition. Hosted by LeBow’s Business Analytics Solutions Center, the 2018 Dragon Datathon tasked teams of graduate students with creating advanced analytical models to produce efficient and effective business outcomes in less than 10 hours.
To integrate industry – a staple of the analytics program – the marathon event was held in partnership with SEI, a global provider of asset management, investment processing and investment operation solutions. From event kick-off to completion, SEI offered industry perspective, providing an experiential learning lens on the analytics curriculum.
The challenge: build a chatbot that will answer the most frequently asked questions during the recruitment process for SEI’s summer internship program. Working in teams, students used machine learning algorithms to build an engine that can classify user intent based on questions the user provides. Chuanren Liu, Assistant Professor, Decision Sciences and MIS, oversaw the challenge as the faculty advisor.
“Tools and techniques are important to learn, but they’re not as useful until they’re applied,” said Liu. “The datathon is an opportunity for our students to apply the knowledge they learned in classroom to real-world applications. Through this type of training, our graduates are prepared to work on day one.”
Of four competing student teams, the first-place team scored highest on their machine learning model, accuracy and completeness of their chatbot engine, quality of data processing and potential for further improvement. The winning team was invited to SEI’s corporate headquarters in Oaks, Pa., to deliver their presentation to company leadership, among whom were Ryan Hicke, Senior Vice President for SEI Wealth Platform; Sanjay Sharma, Head of Development and Implementation; Dr. Vladimir Coric, Lead Data Scientist; Nick Cahill, Senior Development Manager, Global Wealth Platform; and Russ Kliman, Head of Strategic Programs and Innovation.
The group gathered in SEI’s IdeaFarm, a centuries-old farmhouse now used to encourage innovation and creativity. Leaders in the audience posed questions to the students’ chatbot to test the outcome of their work. “Where does the internship take place?” asked Hicke. “What’s the internship salary?” Each answer generated by the engine accurately addressed Hicke’s inquiries.
Following their presentation, students participated in a tour of SEI’s corporate campus, including the company’s data center, a secure storage facility for data infrastructure. They also explored SEI’s West Collection, an assemblage of contemporary artwork by leading international artists. From the open office floorplan to the hallways of emerging art, the tour emphasized the company’s culture of innovation, collaboration, openness and accessibility to leadership.
The first-place team was comprised of seven students in the MS Business Analytics program: Wendy Gao, Parth Girme, Hong Li, Kartik Ravikumar, Meghna Sachidananda, Kalpak Sarangdhar and Mitesh Yadav. Appropriately, SEI awarded each member of the winning team with an Echo Dot: Amazon’s voice-controlled home assistant.
The students’ spring break plans? Getting acquainted with Alexa.