MSBA ’20 students Rijul Banerjee, J.T. Sarmento, Ryan Luu, Kevin Pla, Adam Toy and Luis Acevedo (left to right) present their findings at the city of San Diego.

MSBA Students Study App, Present Findings to City of San Diego Chief Data Officer

March 04, 2020 • By Sydney Charles

Master of Business Analytics (MSBA) students from The UCI Paul Merage School of Business led a presentation for the city of San Diego where they revealed a neural network model based on the city’s Get it Done app. Luis Acevedo, Rijul Banerjee, Ryan Luu, Kevin Pla, J.T. Sarmento and Adam Toy shared their findings on January 31 in a presentation to Andrell Bower, chief data officer for the city of San Diego, and her team. 

San Diego’s app allows users to report non-emergency incidents—such as graffiti markings or illegal dumping—and connects directly to the city’s work tracking system. The team’s model was able to predict what department each case was assigned to and achieved an accuracy that performed 3.9 times better than random chance.

The idea for the project stemmed from a machine learning analytics course at the Merage School.

“This was our final project for our machine learning class during fall quarter,” Sarmento explained. “We applied the tools and techniques we were learning in the class to the data set.” 

Before starting the class, Sarmento attended the Data Science GO conference where he learned about various data sets available from the city of San Diego; the team chose the Get it Done data set to analyze further.

The model predicted which cases–such as potholes or graffiti sightings–would be reported using the Get it Done app and what department the report would fall under. Predicting what types of reports would be filed before they occurred would allocate city resources more efficiently, improve city response time and increase user satisfaction. 

Ryan Luu said, “We thought it would be insightful if we could predict, given the parameter of the season, the GPS coordinates, the community and the type of each case reported. Is it going to be a case for the transportation and storm department, or a parking incident? We thought that would be important to know.” 

After the class concluded, Sarmento reached out to the city of San Diego and inquired if they wanted to learn about the results from their project analysis.  

Andrell Bower said, “We were really excited for their project because we’re a city government, we’re always strapped for resources, so we love it when others do these projects and it’s sort of like crowd-sourcing for solutions. We can get input from academics, people in the community, so we were really excited to have them come down.” 

Sarmento said, “It was definitely an experience that was probably the most impactful I’ve had in the program so far. The fact that we were able to analyze a real data set and come up with real insights, but also culminating that into presentation for the chief data officer and the entire performance and analytical department for the City of San Diego. It was a very real meeting.” 

The positive response from the San Diego representatives left team member Adam Toy with newfound confidence in the findings they took away from the project. 

Toy explained, “The most rewarding part, and thus my favorite part, was getting some of that affirmation when we did the presentation. They asked tons of questions and let us know how impressed they were.” 

“One thing they did a really good job in was communicating the complexities of the analysis,” Bower said. “We were really impressed with the project that they did and also how they were able to communicate the results to us.” 

The MSBA students received valuable real-world experience during the project and their trip to San Diego.  

“Taking the extra step to work on this get it done project was super fun and rewarding. I got a great sense of how it feels working with real-world data, how to generate actionable insights and how to work with a team throughout the whole process,” said team member Rijul Banerjee. 

The Paul Merage School of Business left a lasting impact on the city of San Diego as well.

“This group really put a lot of effort into it. We’ve worked with other students before and I think that they were a level above a lot of the students we’ve connected with. They gave me a great impression of the business school,” Bower stated.