eBay Announces Winners of 4th Annual Machine Learning Challenge

Using the power of natural language understanding, these two students created fantastic solutions.

eBay’s annual Machine Learning Challenge for University Students is one way that the company finds bright young minds in the fields of engineering and technology. Students are tasked with a thorny problem — last year, it was predicting shipping times — and the finest solutions find their creators rewarded with an internship. 

This year, applicants were given the challenge of building a model that can accurately extract and label the named entities in the dataset of item titles on eBay. Those “named entities” might include brands, locations, styles, product names, colors, materials, sizes, and other semantic strings, words and phrases that can help classify an item. Using Named Entity Recognition (NER), a machine learning process that automatically susses out these categories, our applicants tackled the very real-world challenge any ecommerce platform faces: how do we extract structured data from unstructured sources like listings?

A whopping 591 teams entered this year, and we’re thrilled to announce the two winners of this year’s challenge: Rupashi Sangal and Sanjayan Pradeep Kumar Sreekala, both currently studying at the University of California, San Diego. “The problem statement caught our attention, and the opportunity to work with a real-world dataset, implement various models, and explore their results was very appealing, so we decided to participate in the competition,” says Rupashi. Their solution “​​utilized one of the largest and latest state-of-the-art BERT models, called Deberta V3, from Microsoft,” says Rupashi. “To improve the performance of our model, we also employed K-fold cross-validation and ensembling techniques.”

Rupashi, who is a first-year Masters student studying electrical and computer engineering with a specialization in machine learning and data science, was previously a software engineer in India. “I aspire to become a solutions architect in AI and work towards creating innovative and trendsetting AI-powered applications,” says Rupashi — and we hope we can help her along that journey. 

Sanjayan notes that the Machine Learning Challenge posed “a fun opportunity to test our skills and gain valuable experience.” He is currently studying computer science and transitioning his career to focus more on machine learning. Like Rupashi, he previously worked in industry in India, in Sanjayan’s case as a digital design engineer. 

Both Rupashi and Sanjayan have accepted internships with eBay’s Structured Data Applied Research team in San Jose, for the summer of 2023. “I am excited to gain practical experience with machine learning systems in production environments and learn about best practices for deployment and maintenance,” says Sanjayan. We’re excited, too — to have such bright minds here at eBay.