Who says data has to be dull? During the Fall 2012 session of the Chemical and Biosciences Data Analysis course, students had the opportunity to satisfy their curiosity concerning whatever subject they were interested in by using a statistical technique known as Analysis of Variance or ANOVA. Simply put, ANOVA compares two or more groups of numbers to see if there is a difference between them. Often, each of the groups is associated with a variable and so the test really tells you if one or more variables has some kind of effect. You can use ANOVA to test for the effect of just about any variable on just about anything you choose.
OK, so maybe that doesn’t sound all that interesting, but the fun part is choosing your variables!
Second year students were given the task of asking any question they wanted to and using ANOVA to find out the answer. They came up with some very creative questions, including …
- which weapon in a video game gives the best score on a tough level?
- do I answer math questions better after I run up a flight of stairs?
- does my cat prefer to play with string, bottle caps or twist ties?
- which brand of juice does my son prefer?
- which artificial sweetener tastes best?
Perhaps the most vital question of all, though, was “Which Tim Horton’s on campus has the shortest line up and when?” Students clocked wait times at our two locations at both 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Surprisingly, the ANOVA test showed there were no statistically significant differences in wait times based on either the location or the time. Actually, this result is not surprising because most people will tell you that no matter which grocery line up you’re in, it’s the slowest. Now at least we know the best location to go to; whichever one is closer, since it doesn’t really make a difference.