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Inside the Business Analytics Undergraduate Practicum

The class is off to a strong start with teams selected and introductions from the sponsor companies.
James Dorris and Michael Carpenter from Home Depot and Jona Amssoms from Spark Technologies brought the working world into the classroom as they unveiled an introduction of their semester-long data challenge to business analytics practicum students.

James Dorris and Michael Carpenter from Home Depot and Jona Amssoms from Spark Technologies brought the working world into the classroom as they unveiled an introduction of their semester-long data challenge to business analytics practicum students.

Executives from Home Depot and Sparck Technologies recently met with the Business Analytics Undergraduate Practicum students and introduced their data challenges.

Not surprisingly, when Home Depot Director of Decision Analytics Michael Carpenter asked for a show of hands for students who had heard of Home Depot, every hand in the classroom went up. Carpenter went on to explain some of the reasons Home Depot is so well known—they are the world’s largest home improvement retailer, with more than 2,300 retail stores, earning $157.4 million in revenue in 2022.

As part of his presentation, he outlined Home Depot’s commitment to analytics and data.

“The Home Depot is a very analytics-centric organization, with tremendous buy-in from senior leadership.  We have an extremely strong analytics and data science community that consistently delivers valuable solutions to very tough retail problems through a strong understanding of the business and great cross-functional collaboration. It’s a great organization to establish and grow your career!”

Home Depot Senior Manager of Decision Analytics James Dorris, a proud Georgia Tech alumnus, presented the data challenge for Home Depot.  Dorris explained it’s an exciting project, focused on Store Operations, that provides the students the ability to leverage skills across the analytics spectrum, everything from data engineering, analysis, statistical modeling, visualization and automation.

“It’s a great real-world challenge and we’re looking forward to the fresh perspective the students will bring. We see it all the time: new eyes on a project can lead to valuable insights,” said Dorris. “On a personal level, I’m excited to work with Tech students. I got a lot out of my time at Georgia Tech and I’m excited to come back and give back.”

Carpenter, a veteran practicum leader, gave the students an idea of what to expect. “By the end of the course, if you don’t already, you’ll understand the value and power of analytics.  At Home Depot, a one percent improvement adds up to material dollars. We are always impressed with the talent of the Georgia Tech students; it’s going to be a great project!”

Meet Sparck Technologies

This year, Sparck celebrates its 100th anniversary, growing from the company that built the world’s first automatic wooden clog manufacturing machine to its current iteration as a global technology company specializing in 3D automated packaging solutions. With Sparck's automated fit-to-size packaging solutions, businesses worldwide can cast off their dependence on manual labor, electrify efficiency, cut transportation costs, and curb their carbon footprint. Sparck Technologies and its employees are 100 percent committed to pioneering automated packaging solutions with unmatched uptime and performance while leaving a positive global impact. Sparck also provides in-house service, support, and training to its client partnerships, which include some of the world’s largest retail and industrial brands. 

“I'm excited to give these students the opportunity to tackle a genuine challenge and engage with our leadership team,” said Sparck Technologies Sales Engineer Jona Amssoms. “On our side, we welcome the perspectives and data insights the students will generate, with the ultimate goal of helping us prevent downtime for our machines and give our service engineers a powerful tool to help them serve our clients even faster.”

When ending his overview, Amssoms invited students on a demo day tour of the Atlanta Sparck facility to see their automated packing machines in action.

Thought Logic Consulting

The idea for a practicum between Sparck and Georgia Tech actually came from a completely different source—Thought Logic Consulting. As a strategic partner to the BAC and consultant to Sparck, Thought Logic saw the benefits of the potential collaboration and championed the practicum.

“We look forward to giving perspective when needed,” said Kylie Amssoms, a Thought Logic principal consultant. “We can help the students bridge that gap between the technology and business sides of the practicum.”

Leslie Thomas is a solutions manager at Thought Logic and has her MBA from Georgia Tech. “I know many students are considering consulting careers. In addition to the practicum guidance, we’re also glad to give students an inside look at how consultants work with clients to problem solve.”

Meet the Students

Sixteen undergraduates will take part in the class and have been broken down into four teams of four.

“It’s a diverse class with a wide range of talents and expertise,” explained Professor Jonathan Fan. “We have 11 business administration students, two from biomedical engineering, and one each from industrial systems engineering, aerospace engineering, and economics.”

Fan created the teams based on their preferences and skill levels in Python, R, and Tableau, with the goal of having diverse skill sets on each team.

The teams are paired with a graduate mentor, who will provide weekly check-ins and support when needed. (Be on the lookout for our next Inside the Practicum article, Meet the Mentors, for more information on the four graduate mentors who volunteered to work with the undergraduate teams.)

 TechSavvy Insights (Home Depot): 

  • Anish Yennam, Business Administration – ITM, Team Leader
  • Hana Weji, Economics
  • Lucas Ruggieri, Business Administration - ITM
  • Ethan McCoy, Business Administration – ITM
  • Victor Sabioni, MBA Mentor

 The Boxsters (Sparck):

  • Joshua Oluwademilade Hambolu, Business Administration - ITM
  • Ean Girault, Business Administration - ITM
  • Brian Chen, Industrial Engineering
  • Lake Boyer, Business Administration – ITM, Team Leader
  • Narin Smith, MBA Mentor

Wet Paint Watchers (Home Depot):

  • Richie Tran, Business Administration - ITM
  • Bri Abreau, Biomedical Engineering, Team Leader
  • Hector Melendez, Biomedical Engineering
  • Jasper Pilkenton, Business Administration – ITM
  • Davis King, MBA Mentor

 Scheller Sparck Squadron (Sparck): 

  • Ruben Lechuga Gonzalez, Business Administration - ITM
  • Aidan Peairs, Aerospace Engineering, Team Leader
  • Cindy Wei Zhou, Business Administration - ITM
  • Devarshi Patra, Business Administration – ITM
  • Jeffrey Campey, MBA Mentor

Ean Girault (Team Boxster), expressed his appreciation for the class. “I love the opportunity to take on the sort of challenge we will see in the workforce. It’s definitely going to be different than any other class I have taken.”

“We are looking forward to pushing the boundaries of classroom learning,” summed up Professor Fan.

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