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ASU statistics students get real-world experience with local golf company

ASU statistics students
January 07, 2015

The game of golf lends itself to all sorts of statistics – driving distance, percentage of tee shots finding the fairway and much more. Statistics is also a topic of importance to PING, the Phoenix-based company that has built an international reputation as a manufacturer of top-quality golf clubs and related equipment. The company uses statistical analysis to ensure that its products meet its exacting quality standards.

Four Arizona State University students had the opportunity to work with PING employees during the Fall 2014 semester on a project utilizing and developing their talents in statistics, as well as other skills that will help them succeed in the workforce. Through the project they also provided valuable analysis to PING regarding the issue of grip alignment on its golf clubs.

The students – Tom Dameron, Ryan Grossman, Gwen Lindvig and Robby Reiter – undertook the project as part of their senior statistics capstone class in the bachelor of science degree program in statistics, offered by ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. New College is the core college on ASU’s West campus.

At the end of the semester-long project, during which they regularly visited PING’s headquarters in north Phoenix and worked directly with the company’s employees, the students presented their results to PING staff, who were impressed by their talents and work ethic.

“This team of bright ASU statisticians collaborated well with our PING teams and supported our continuous improvement culture,” said Loran Cox, PING’s director of quality.

“Through excellent teamwork, the students thoroughly analyzed statistical data and identified ways to make one of our key processes even better,” Cox said. “Concepts developed by PING were further validated and advanced by the work and recommendations of this ASU team. We very much appreciate their time and efforts on this project.”

For the students, it was an opportunity to synthesize what they have learned throughout their coursework in New College’s statistics program, the only bachelor’s degree in Arizona focusing specifically on statistics.

“The project gave us valuable experience in how to apply statistics in real life,” Dameron said. “We learned about the manufacturing process and what types of quality tests to run to achieve the best results. For several weeks, we were at PING headquarters multiple times a week running experiments.”

“We also had to translate our findings into easy-to-understand language for people who aren’t statisticians,” added Lindvig, who admits to knowing nothing about golf clubs before she started the project. “And we developed our skills in public speaking and creating presentations for the meeting with PING at the end of the semester.”

Employees of PING were extremely welcoming and helpful as the students worked throughout the semester, according to Reiter. “They made us feel like we were members of the team at PING,” he said.

That’s exactly the type of collaborative arrangement New College is looking for from organizations that provide projects for statistics students, said Connie Borror, the statistics professor who teaches the senior statistics capstone class. Borror works with industry, government and nonprofit entities to provide teams of students with challenging experiences for their capstone projects.

“PING clearly was invested in the project,” Borror said. “The company gave our students a meaningful project that was important to PING, and they provided a reliable point of contact in the form of a quality engineer with whom the students could meet each week.”

Borror said she was proud of the growth she saw in the students, individually and as a team, during the process.

“At first they were coming to me regularly for direction, but as the semester progressed they became more independent and approached me less frequently for guidance and consultation,” she said. “By the time they made their final presentation, it was clear that they were extremely confident and could handle any question that was thrown at them. This combination of independence, confidence and ability to work with a team is what we want to see from our fourth-year students, and the capstone class plays a major role in helping students achieve this goal.”

Students in New College’s bachelor of science degree program in statistics receive training in the latest statistical techniques using professional statistical software. They study the related areas of mathematics and computing, as well as a focus area chosen by the student. Graduates are well-prepared for employment or graduate studies.

“Our work with PING showed that undergrads are capable of getting the job done,” Reiter said. “The capstone project is the culmination of what we have learned in our classes throughout the statistics program. We now have industry experience in approaching a product quality question by knowing what to look for, how to look for it and how to display the results.”