This chapter is about encouraging students to participate in data competitions so that they can gain experience outside of traditional coursework. Since employers are looking for employees with real-world experience in addition to academic success, some academic organizations are encouraging students to participate in structured data competitions against other organizations.

The authors share their experience with the IBM Watson Global Competition. The goal was simply to encourage participation, but the students far exceeded expectations, with all the teams performing very well. The authors provided details about how the student teams were selected, organized, and managed. A benefit of participating in a competition is that the students can see how they compare to other students. Students’ communication and teamwork skills also improved because they were forced to describe their projects succinctly. Some of the risks are that students might spend too much time on their competition program and not their homework or vice versa. Also, if the competition involves travel, funding must be provided, that might not have been originally budgeted by the organization. Suggestions for identifying competitions for students are provided in this chapter.