Students from IE School of Science and Technology pitched sustainable solutions for a water supply challenge presented by Acciona Agua using AI and machine learning during the Sustainability Datathon 2023, with top winners granted cash prizes.

The winning team, TVCAN applied a holistic approach to the challenge and developed two machine learning models, while also suggesting business solutions to Acciona to reduce water leakages, form contingency plans, and increase awareness campaigns for water consciousness.

The three-week data challenge required participants to forecast filtered water demand and consumption for the Villarrubia de los Ojos municipality in Spain.

“When approaching Acciona’s business challenges, we realized that one model was just not enough, it wasn’t sufficient. We’ve therefore developed two models, one being the water consumption prediction model, and the other one being the water detection model,” said Tabea Herbst, a student in the Dual Degree Master in Management and Master in Business Analytics and Big Data.

Acciona Agua’s Chief Information Technology Officer, Frank Zamora, and the Academic Director for the Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, Frederico Castenado, along with Google’s head of Analytical Consultants, Mayte Ballestar, formed the jury and awarded the winning teams the monetary prizes - €3000 for first place, €1500 for second, €1000 for third, and €500 for the honorary award.

“The main value we can get from this type of initiative is to identify talent to incorporate in our company. We want talent with a fresh vision, and with a modern vision to do businesses, but also the technology,” Zamora said. “I try to look always for what they propose that is out of the box in terms of how they present their findings and solutions.”

Alan Corrales, a member of the winning TVCAN team and a student in the Dual Degree International MBA and Master in Business Analytics and Big Data (MBD) shared his experience with the Datathon.

“The Datathon was the first challenge in applying what I have learned throughout my MBA and MBD,” he said. “I learned immediately what our professors have been preaching about. Data is everything, but limited and quality data was the real challenge here.”

Corrales explained that one of his main takeaways was how to manipulate data, not in a negative connotation as some might perceive.

“Manipulating, in this case, was making sure that we could elaborate on our decisions made when filtering and creating a route, not just for the purpose of the Datathon, but rather for the people to understand the narrative when piercing together,” he said. “I learned that we could have made a million different strategies and stories around what we were given, but what was most important was making sure outsiders could understand our justification.”

The Sustainalytics and Ecominds teams won the second and third place prizes respectively, while the EcoProphets won the honorary award.

Sci-Tech students participating in the IE Sustainability Datathon may receive the IE Sustainability Foundations Certificate, obtained upon completion of sustainability-related courses and projects.