Photo courtesy General Assembly
Photo courtesy General Assembly

Instead of staring into a crystal ball like the rest of us, a team of students at General Assembly will use data science to predict which D.C. restaurants will receive stars (and how many) when the Michelin Guide comes out Oct. 13.

The education and career transformation company that works closely with college campuses and companies to empower people with skills in technology, data, and other 21st century desirables has a fresh cohort of 12 local students who will tackle the big question on everyone’s minds as their final project before graduating from the 12-week program.

“The goal of the ‘DC Michelin Guide Challenge‘ is to demonstrate to students that they can take an open-ended question and use the data science skills they learned at General Assembly to solve a real world, fun problem,” says Joseph Nelson, the data science immersive instructor heading up the project. An alumna of the program, Haley Boyan, came up with the idea.

Nelson says data science, an interdisciplinary field combining applied mathematics, computer science, and subject area expertise, is used all of the time to solve qualitative problems. Take Netflix, for example, which determines which movies to recommend based on what customers have already watched.

What I suggest is with any type of prediction problem, you need to base your prediction on what you observed to already be the case,” Nelson says. That’s why the students will be encouraged to look closely at markets where the Michelin Guide already exists: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. They’ll also scrape through reviews, Google map data, and more.

“Something subjective, closed, and secretive can be broken down by observable things like price and Yelp reviews,” Nelson says. He also suggests that Michelin might award stars on a per capita basis, so students will look at population size compared to stars in the other U.S. cities.

The challenge is not limited to current students. “Anyone that has a technical background of varying degrees is welcome to compete,” Nelson says. “There’s not a crazy barrier to entry, but we hope they have some level of a tech background.” Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 12., and the individual who gets the closest to the actual Michelin Guide results will win $200. 

General Assembly will reveal the results at their offices (1133 15th St. NW) at a free event from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Oct. 13. 

“One of the most important pieces of this is to show that data science is being used by a number of industries already,” says Paul Gleger, the East Coast regional director for General Assembly. “This happens to be an exciting example that is timely, but we’re stressing the point that data science is being used across industries.” 

General Assembly will take a closer look at how data science is used in the restaurant industry at a Nov.17 event

Update: Y&H connected the Michelin Guide with General Assembly and Michelin will now be contributing $300 of prize money, bringing the total purse to $500. The winner will also be invited to the official Michelin celebratory reception on Oct. 13.