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Darla Moore School of Business

Boeing competition challenges Moore School, Engineering students to address real-world scenarios

April 15, 2019

Five teams of USC Darla Moore School of Business and College of Engineering and Computing students recently shared their innovative ideas gleaned from hours of analyzing data sets in the inaugural Boeing Analytics Case Competition held in the Moore School.

Representing an array of majors and backgrounds, the 20 students took real-life questions posed by Boeing and after analyzing data provided by the aerospace company, presented solutions and cost-savings measures the company could actually implement.

Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems and the largest aerospace service provider. The company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries.

For the Boeing competition, the winning team, called Rocky Bal-Boeing, which includes Catherine Daniels, Luke Marazzo, Nicholas Woods and Jonathan Zuraw, spent numerous hours over the week leading up to the competition analyzing their data to report on the trends of the airline industry, said Sung-Hee “Sunny” Park. Park, a Moore School management science associate professor, was the faculty advisor for the competition.

The winning team “analyzed more than 100 data points,” Park said. “Compared to the other groups, their analytics were deeper and more comprehensive.”

Each team had to analyze data for topics including whether Boeing should consider investing in developing a sustainable plane, how Boeing can increase and sustain profitability and the trends of the aerospace market and passenger behavior and how Boeing can adjust to these trends.

Marazzo, a sophomore majoring in operations and supply chain, said his team set themselves apart in the competition by looking at their topic – how airlines are trending – from every possible angle.

Using U.S. Department of Transportation data sets, Marazzo’s team not only built a passenger profile over time but also looked at revenue trends.

The competition provided “real-life work experience and also made us focus on teamwork, communications and use [an analytics] software we weren’t familiar with – Tableau,” Marazzo said. Competitions like the Boeing challenge “help you grow as a young professional. As I go through college, my skills with data analytics are exponentially better than if I hadn’t had those experiences.”

To maximize the experience for students, Boeing data practitioners were on hand to advise the students on their work and hear their findings.

Judges for the competition included Eric Hatch, a member of Boeing’s analytics information management services team, three Moore School professors and a College of Engineering and Computing research associate.

Not only did the students learn how to use data analytics in a real way, but they also learned how to present and defend their recommendations, said Rhea Matthews, a judge for the competition and a mechanical engineering research associate in the USC College of Engineering and Computing.

“These competitions are valuable for students in that it gives them the opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary group,” Matthews said. “They don’t often get this opportunity in the classroom, and it is a skill that they will need in future jobs.”

Park said the student participants presented original ideas that Boeing representatives had never considered before.

One team suggested that Boeing discontinue using entertainment monitors in headrests as a cost-savings measure.

“Everyone brings their laptop or mobile device on airplanes,” Park said. “So Boeing could provide a selection of movies and a wi-fi connection to use on their own devices, and there’d be no need for monitors.”

Data analytics exercises like the Boeing case competition provide hands-on experience with real data, which is crucial for students to be data proficient and analytically capable as they enter the work force.

Moore School Dean Peter Brews wants every business student to be data proficient, analytically capable and functionally based, and wants to brand the Darla Moore School of Business as a data analytics school.

The Moore School “opened a data lab this year, and the last of the three quantitative courses in the undergraduate business core ends with a project where large data sets are analyzed by students,” Brews said. “We are holding every student accountable for their data proficiency and analytical capability.”

While the students in the Boeing Analytics Case Competition learned more about data analytics, they also offered Boeing executives a different perspective, which is a win-win situation, said Park, the faculty member who oversaw the competition.

“Students have a more flexible mindset, they think outside of the box,” Park said. “They can change the culture of how the data is analyzed.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.