Purdue Esport Data Hackathon: and the winner is…

Photo caption: The 2018 eSports hackathon. Hackathon teammates go over their presentation in the Rawls Hall second floor commons. (Purdue University/ Mark Simons)

Two worlds collided in early November as data and sports-loving students squared off in a 24-hour hackathon event on November 9-10. The Krannert School of Management, in partnership with Purdue’s Discovery Park, the Purdue Interdisciplinary Data Science Initiative and SportsUNITED, hosted an Esport Data Hackathon that challenged teams to think outside the box to improve the fan experience and develop models to predict the performance of athletes, management of team and outcomes of games.

Over 150 students from all parts of campus registered to compete in the marathon, but only one team of five students came out on top. Competitors worked throughout the night and camped out in classrooms in hopes of perfecting their pitch to a panel of six judges, leaders in the tech, sports and esports industries, who selected eight teams to advance to the final round of presentations.

“Throughout the hackathon, it was clear that Purdue students have passion for esports and a willingness to execute on their vision. The combination of the students’ love for gaming and ambitious nature enabled them to do great work in a short period of time, and the collaboration of teams across disciplines exemplified how technical and business knowledge can play together to create unique ideas,” said Trey Buck, senior project manager at Blackboard and judge at the event. “There were common themes that inspired the projects — data analytics, community impact, and social good — with multiple ideas challenging for the top spot. Purdue’s willingness to create space for innovation in this emerging industry is a symbol of entrepreneurial leadership for the region.”

The winning team, TSM, included students from Computer Science, Krannert and Mechanical Engineering. Joshua Allen, Thomas Chen, Stefany Go, Shubhankar Sinha, and Patrick Tirtapraja were members of TSM and walked away with the $4,000 cash prize and a potential new start-up. CJ Knapp, a judge for the event and senior manager in analytics at Crowe, was especially impressed by the way TMS presented their pitch.

“TSM separated themselves from their competitors in many ways, but none was more key than their approach. Many of the teams chose to let their data analysis techniques be the crux of their offering … TSM, by contrast, crafted a message that focused on how Tox will solve the toxicity issues facing gamer communities directly without shifting focus to how great their new platform is technologically,” Knapp said.

Esport is a relatively new market valued at $1 billion, with room for expansion and innovation. This hackathon allowed students to get hands-on experience as they worked to solve real-world issues facing the esports industry. SportsUNITED is a company that connects problems facing the SportTech community and people interested in business start up with the resources they need to create a successful product, and SportsUNITED founding partner Lawrence Walter believes this competition gives students a glimpse of how the SportTech field functions.

“This hackathon event can produce teams and concepts that can get into the innovation and creation pipeline to eventually have a chance in forming a company, building their product and applying to the Techstars program … SportsUNITED is now working in partnership with Krannert and the Purdue ecosystem to help these teams take their efforts forward beyond the hackathon,” Walter said. “The hope is that more competitions like this can be hosted on the Purdue campus and that we can activate that talent that is up in West Lafayette. This can help them understand the business problems that need to be solved in sports with technology and help cultivate the next startup coming out of Purdue.”

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