Mendoza School of Business

Program Like a Champion

The Notre Dame MSBA program took a fun class challenge and turned it into an annual competition that allows each cohort to exercise their programming skills.

Published: November 22, 2022 / Author: Brandi Wampler

Belts aren’t just for WWE champions.

The University of Notre Dame Master of Science in Business Analytics residential program was proud to “belt” Alex Evans (MSBA ‘23) as its first programming champion of the academic year. Evans won the Simulation and Optimization Challenge with his development of a text-based adventure game in R, a programming language and a software environment for statistical computing and graphics.

professor with student holding wwe-style beltThe programming competition began with Seth Berry’s Unstructured Data Analytics class in 2020. Soon Mendoza College of Business professors Sharif Nijim, Martin Barron and Fred Nwanganga offered their own challenges for a more complete competition. Now whichever MSBA student wins the most challenges throughout the year can keep the championship belt after graduation.

“The MSBA Programming Championship is a competition that lets students ‘flex’ their programming and creativity muscles,” said Berry, academic co-director of the MSBA and an associate teaching professor of IT, Analytics, and Operations. “It may have started as a one time challenge, but now the competition and the belt have become a part of the program.”

Throughout the rest of the 10-month program, the MSBA Class of 2023 cohort will have other opportunities to win programming challenges such as the Scariest Simulation, which asks students to program the scariest simulation they can imagine, and the Machine Learning Challenge, which involves producing a model that delivers the best performance. These competitions push students to utilize the various programming skills they’ve been developing in their classes.

“Students learn a ton in class, so these challenges are really just a fun and low pressure way for them to take that knowledge and expand upon it,” said Berry.

Berry estimates that each challenge has anywhere from two to 15 students compete with three days to a week given to complete a task. Each professor is the judge of their challenge and bestows the belt to their winner, until the final champion is awarded.

Final champions have the chance to take the belt home after graduation. However, so far, the champions have opted to relinquish it back to the MSBA program.

“Although the championship belt may be over the top, it provokes some competitiveness among the students,” said Berry. “But even so, each champion has opted to keep the belt as part of the MSBA’s next championship, rather than taking it home.”