Students find real solutions

UWL mathematics students presented solutions they developed for Fastenal at the company’s headquarters in Winona, Minnesota, Friday, May 5.

UWL Math students present big data solutions to Fastenal executive team

A group of 16 mathematics students presented research results to directors from multiple departments at Fastenal’s corporate headquarters in Winona, Minnesota. Working in teams of four, students presented their solutions to three Fastenal big data challenges Friday, May 5. Two winning teams were selected to present to the Fastenal executive team and received $2,500 in scholarships for their outstanding work.

The students were members of an industrial math course offered by the UWL data science group, founded by Song Chen and Chad Vidden, both assistant professors of Mathematics and Statistics. The data science group aims to establish collaborative relationships with local companies by bringing together real industry problems, talented students and cutting-edge technology.

Two winning teams of students were selected to present to the Fastenal executive team and received $2,500 in scholarships for their outstanding work.

In this course, students spent an entire semester working on three industrial projects offered by Fastenal including optimizing quoting processes, identifying potential special pricing agreements, as well as inventory consumption forecasting. Students worked on real, large-scale data with millions of samples while learning and applying statistical models and big data techniques to address important and real challenges for Fastenal. A large focus of the class is teamwork and delivery of the content. Students have designated roles including a project manager, writer, IT specialist and communications officer. They dedicate a lot of time to writing reports and conducting presentations to meet the industrial standards. One member of the Fastenal executive team commented on the “incredible” job students did, especially considering they were only given encrypted data for confidential needs.

Students in an industrial math course offered by the UW-La Crosse data science group at Fastenal’s corporate headquarters.

Chen and Vidden are planning to offer the class again in Spring 2018. They welcome students with various background who are interested in data science and real industry experience. The course enhances a student’s resume and can lead to industrial scholarships and internship opportunities, they say. Contact Chen ( and Vidden ( for more information.