Second Annual Quantathon Attracts More Participants and Official Sponsorship
By Emily PayneMedia Inquiries
Returning for its second year, the Quantathon had another successful showing, bringing together nearly 200 students for a day-long problem-solving competition on February 3.
There were a few exciting differences this year, said Sijie Wei, co-founder and vice president of technological initiatives for the Quant Club. Those included a larger prize pool, the participation of Goldman Sachs as an official sponsor and a 30 percent increase in participants from last year. In addition to offering financial support, representatives from Goldman Sachs attended the Quantathon to observe and to talk to the students throughout the competition.
I originally had the idea to put up a quantitative competition that is open to all students who enjoy problem solving, working with friends and competing. To see it grow so much within my time here at CMU was both a surprise and a very meaningful achievement for me.
Wei and his close friends in the Computational Finance program formed the Quant Club in 2016 to bring together students interested in quantitative finance and to foster connections and opportunities between students and the finance industry.
“To prepare, we spent months in advance communicating with different potential sponsors, reviewing the event from last year as well as planning, organizing and implementing the new event,” said Wei. “A lot of time and effort has been put in by the Quantathon Team to make this event a more professional and fun event for all the participants.”
This year, 49 teams were tasked with finding an optimal strategy in a coin toss scenario. The problem involved tossing a fair coin repeatedly while keeping track of the number of heads and tails. Each toss cost 25 cents to keep playing, and teams were given a formula for determining what the expected payout would be depending on if the coin came up heads or tails. The students had to present a solution that would show how to maximize your winnings once you decided to stop tossing the coin.
Mathematical Sciences’ William Hrusa and Po-Shen Loh returned to judge the competition alongside newcomer Yu Gu. Hrusa said the judges had their work cut out for them this year.
“I think the students presented better solutions this year. We had a harder time picking out a few that really looked good,” he said. The judges picked nine out of the 49 teams to continue on in the competition. Five of the nine teams received honorable mention. The top four teams went on to present their final results and compete for first, second, third and fourth place. The winning team included mathematical sciences major Raymond Hogenson, computer science and mathematical sciences majors Patrick Lin and George Lu, and computer science major David Zeng.
The Quant Club has been an invaluable resource to students over the last two years. The club regularly hosts different banks for information sessions on campus. Last fall, the students organized a mock interview event; they invited Computational Finance program alumni to campus to help current students practice their interviewing skills. Juniors and seniors in the club lend their support to underclassmen by leading resume workshops and internship panels.
The Quantathon is the club’s biggest event, and Wei hopes the competition continues to grow even after he graduates in May.
“I originally had the idea to put up a quantitative competition that is open to all students who enjoy problem solving, working with friends and competing. To see it grow so much within my time here at CMU was both a surprise and a very meaningful achievement for me,” said Wei.
Wei officially passed the torch on to younger students in the club in hopes that they will expand the Quantathon for years to come. Wei believes the event’s appeal speaks to CMU students’ problem-solving nature and its uniqueness in bringing students together from all backgrounds through their shared interest in quantitative finance.
Quant Club president Reid Zhou agrees with Wei. Zhou competed in the first Quantathon in 2017 and was fascinated at seeing both sides of the competition, as a participant and as an organizer.
“I think the Quantathon is one of a kind at CMU. I don’t think any other competition has a similar structure as what we do,” Zhou said. “The Quantathon takes all kinds of different skills. You can code to find the answer, but you also need to have solid foundation in mathematics and probability. At the same time, you have to present your solution to the judges, which also requires a decent amount of presentation skills.”
As the club’s faculty advisor, Hrusa has no doubt that the Quant Club will continue to do great things in the years to come. “There’s a great spirit of camaraderie with the students. They want to challenge themselves and they want to get better. The kind of skills they are learning are what you need to land an internship or permanent job at a good place,” said Hrusa.