How the Virginia Department of Transportation Won the State Datathon

By Christine Carmichael 23 Oct, 2014

Last summer, the Governor of Virginia challenged his state agencies to a data competition. Called the “Datathon,” the contest called on government agencies to build data-based applications that could help streamline government, attract businesses, and serve the state’s citizens.

The winning entry came from the state’s Department of Transportation (VDOT), whose team built interactive dashboards using Tableau.
What’s particularly interesting is that VDOT won the competition by leveraging data outside its typical work area. In their day jobs, the VDOT team uses Tableau to analyze operations and crash events, and to optimize the deployment of DOT assets. But for the Datathon, they created dashboards to help connect Virginia jobseekers to technology careers, and to help technology businesses see the resources available to them in the state.

“We wanted to quantify the myriad reasons that entrepreneurs would choose Virginia to start their next venture, and to help jobseekers see the careers available to them. Using information such as location data on Virginia’s universities, the locations of open technology jobs, and even LinkedIn data on our state’s college graduates, we were able to paint an interactive picture in Tableau of the state’s tech workforce. We were also able to create dashboards that let people compare statistics such as telecommuting rates and college degree attainment with the rest of the country.”

The Datathon brought together teams of six people from each agency and gave them 48 hours to develop a concept and build applications from the ground up. Keith Donley, who led VDOT’s team, noted that these challenges of time and manpower are similar to the challenges that people face working with data in their day jobs – they needed quick insights into data and a way to visualize and present it easily.
“We immediately thought of Tableau to quickly build interactive dashboards using multiple types of data. Tableau’s Story Points feature, in particular, helped us present our data uniquely and effectively.”

Donley also noted that, thanks to Tableau’s Story Points feature, they were the only team that did not present using PowerPoint. This helped their team stand out to the judges. The VDOT team was recognized for working with data outside their work area and for presenting data in an interactive and easy-to-use manner.

Check out one of VDOT’s winning presentations here.


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The winning entry came from the state’s Department of Transportation (VDOT), whose team built interactive dashboards using Tableau. (

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