What does it take to be a box office superhero movie?

A total of 55 Virginia Tech students used their analytical, creative-thinking, and problem-solving skills to try to predict what would be the next comic book superhero blockbuster at a recent five-hour hackathon.

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The students had to use a variety of techniques and find their own data, said Alex Kampman, manager of strategy and analytics at Deloitte.

Competitors, including students in the master’s program in analytics offered by the Pamplin College of Business, noted that it was a chance to apply what they had learned in class. 

“If you’re hands-on, you’re more engaged, and you’re going to remember what you did in class,” one participant said.

Experiential learning aside, students also developed a better understanding of the skills most sought by employers in job candidates, Kampman added.

The winning team, whose members represented four academic majors in three colleges, comprised Marissa Hester, public and urban affairs; Farah Gatut, business information technology; Connor Keating, computational modeling and data analytics; and John Gary, economics science. 

“Their suggested movie pitch really impressed the judges,” Kampman said, “as the team considered societal issues, social media influence, and the impact a soundtrack could play in the success of a movie and combined it all together in a very effective presentation.” 

The team won a cash prize and some Deloitte apparel. 

The event, held in Pamplin Hall, was the third annual data analytics challenge sponsored by Deloitte.

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Photo by PRISM; video by Lee Friesland