American Institutes for Research Helps Bring Big Data Competition to D.C. for First Time

Washington, D.C. – DataFest, an annual competition in which undergraduates work in teams to find new and innovative ways of interpreting a complex data set, will be hosted in Washington, D.C. for the first time with help from the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Experts with AIR will serve in various roles, including as speakers, advisers and organizers. DC DataFest will run April 10-12.  

“D.C. is resilient, nimble and innovative—a great match for DataFest,” said Celeste Stone, the deputy director of AIR’s Center for Survey Methods. “We are excited to help usher in the next generation of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] professionals by serving as an official organizer and sponsor of this competition.”

DataFest logoDataFest is nationally sponsored by the American Statistical Association and is hosted by dozens of universities across the country. During the 48-hour competition, students from statistics, computer science and other fields are given a large data set to complete a goal. Teams compete for prizes such as best insight, best visualization and best use of external data.

The data set and goal are not revealed to students until competition kicks off. Past DataFest goals include “Make a data-based policy proposal to reduce crime” using Los Angeles Police Department data, and using data to “Help understand what qualities people look for in prospective dates.”

In addition to serving as organizers, AIR experts will lend their big data expertise during the competition. Data scientists Josh Tokle and Evgeny Klochikhin will give short presentations called Tech Talks (see links to presentations, below). Junior data experts Ahmad Emad and Mengmeng Zhang will serve as VIP consultants, or advisers, to the student competitors. Senior researcher Kathleen Perez-Lopez will also be on hand to provide additional consultation.

DC DataFest is co-hosted by Summit Consulting and the University of Maryland's Joint Program in Survey Methodology at Summit’s downtown headquarters. Joining AIR in support of the competition are Mathematica Policy Research, the Washington Statistical Society and the D.C. chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Students form local schools, including University of Maryland College Park, George Washington University, American University and Georgetown University, are expected to compete.

For more information, visit

Presentations (Tech Talks):
Evgeny Klochikhin - Text Mining and Machine Learning: Examples from Life (PPT)
Josh Tokle - Using Data Visualization Techniques to Communicate Results (IPython) [Please note: This link will take you to an external site; AIR is not responsible for the content.]

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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