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Zicklin School Scores a Hat Trick in Pitney Bowes Contest

June 6, 2022

For the third year in a row, a team of graduate students at the Zicklin School of Business has won the Baruch College Data Challenge with Pitney Bowes, a two-week-long competition among students across Baruch College and the Zicklin School.

Sixty students participated this year, with 11 teams submitting their work to solve the challenge, which once again asked contestants to use machine learning models to predict the likelihood of a mailing meter failing within the next seven days. Their faculty advisor was Chaoqun Deng, an assistant professor in the Paul H. Chook Department of Information Systems and Statistics. 

Clockwise from top left: Chen, Choi, Zheng, Situ

Five teams made it to the final round, in which they presented their work to a team of Pitney Bowes scientists, who chose Team 3 as the winners: Olivia Chen (MS Business Analytics, ‘23), Susung Choi (MS Quantitative Methods & Modeling, ’23), Yuyan Situ (MS Information Systems, ’23), and Andreina Chimi Chong Zheng (MS Information Systems, ’22). For the first time this year, students had to make a video of themselves to walk the judges through their work and thought processes when sending their submissions.

“It was a close competition among the five teams, but the winners managed to use their 10 minutes [of presentation time] to find the right balance between storytelling, technical description, and recommendations of next steps,” said Shivayogi Biradar, a Pitney Bowes data scientist who, along with David Messineo, data science manager, and Christian Bernards, data science lead and distinguished engineer, selected the winning team. 

“This challenge was a good motivator,” said winning team member Susung Choi, who admitted he sometimes “struggles” to start new projects on his own because of the amount of learning needed just to get started. “It’s different when you’re working in a group and with a goal.”

His teammate Olivia Chen, the team lead, said her favorite aspect of the challenge was getting to receive “instant feedback” and learning from other teams’ work during the final presentation. She added that she found it especially challenging to “communicate the results from the business point of view as well as the technical one.”  

“Zicklin graduate students are always eager to learn and drive to succeed,” Biradar said. “They continue to deliver better submissions year after year.  With their drive, grit, and proven track records, Zicklin graduate school students have always amazed us with their submissions.”

As in past years, the data challenge is the outcome of a year-long collaboration between Pitney Bowes and the Paul H. Chook Department of Information Systems and Statistics, in which Pitney Bowes data scientists offer workshops and seminars throughout the year for Zicklin School students; these included an interactive, instructional “boot camp” on design thinking methodologies. The effort is supported by Pitney Bowes’ president and CEO, Marc Lautenbach, who as a member of the Business Roundtable, a nonprofit association of CEOs of major U.S. companies, is committed to backing education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

As a result of the collaboration, Pitney Bowes has opened internship opportunities to Zicklin students, said Justyn Makarewycz, associate director of employer relations at the Graduate Career Management Center. 


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