Statistics research projects conducted by two teams of Hope College students have earned first place and honorable mention in a national competition.

Both have been honored in the 2016-17 Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition (USPROC) of the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education (CAUSE) and the American Statistical Association (ASA). The awards, announced near the end of August for entries from the spring 2017 season, are in the Undergraduate Statistics Class Project Competition portion of USPROC.

Juniors William Lake of Lake Barrington, Illinois, and Matthew Grit of Ada won first place for “Can You Tell the Difference? A Study on the Preference of Bottled Water.” Juniors Anna DeCamp of Harbor Springs, Kiersten Meyerhuber of Saginaw and Mikayla Takas of Grand Haven received honorable mention for “A Study on Word Memorization, Brain Lateralization and Field of Study.”

In announcing those recognized, USPROC’s organizing committee noted that the judges commented that there was very strong competition in the round of papers and that they were impressed with the diversity of the questions posed in the projects. As first-place winners, Lake and Grit have been invited to give a virtual plenary talk during the 2017 Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference (eUSR) on Friday, Nov. 3.

Both teams pursued the projects in the spring 2017 introductory statistics class taught by Todd Swanson, associate professor of mathematics at Hope. A student team in Swanson’s fall 2016 class had placed second in the competition’s fall phase earlier in the year.

“Can You Tell the Difference? A Study on the Preference of Bottled Water” examined whether or not believing that one was drinking bottled water or tap water affected perception of its taste. The team surveyed three groups of 31 students, conducting a blind test in which neither sample was identified (where most participants did not find a difference), another in which the participants were told which was the bottled water (which most said tasted better) and a third in which they were told that the bottled water was tap water, and vice versa (with most believing that what they thought was bottled water tasted better).

“A Study on Word Memorization, Brain Lateralization and Field of Study” explored whether or not the ability to memorize a list of words was affected by being left-brained or right-brained and also whether one’s field was the arts and humanities, natural and applied sciences, or social sciences. The team sampled 106 students, having them look at a list of words for 90 seconds and then recall as many as they could. The study did not find a difference among those who were left-brained or right-brained, but that students in fields of study that involve more reading and writing recalled more words than the others, with arts and humanities students first in the results, followed by students in the social sciences and then those in the natural and applied sciences.

End-of-semester group projects have been a part of the Introductory Statistics course at Hope for several years. The students develop their own projects, with the assignment including designing their experiment, collecting the data and reviewing relevant literature, as well as analyzing the data and drawing conclusions from it. The teams also make oral presentations regarding their research in addition to writing a paper about it.

CAUSE and the American Statistical Association organize USPROC to encourage the development of data analysis skills, to enhance presentation skills and to recognize outstanding work by undergraduate statistics students. In addition to the Undergraduate Statistics Class Project Competition for students in applied statistics courses, USPROC includes an Undergraduate Statistics Research Project Competition for undergraduates who have conducted research projects that are statistically related but are not based on a statistics course.