TDAI summer camp for girls was a deep dive into data

By Chris Booker, Ohio State News
July 25, 20187

Inside the recently renovated Pomerene Hall, freshly painted meeting rooms, shiny white boards and newly finished classrooms greeted students for an inaugural summer camp last week in the emerging field of big data.

Jenna McGuire, Translational Data Analytics Institute associate director and co-director of the summer camp, said the camp was aimed at eighth- to 10th-grade students. She said the goal was to inspire young women to learn more about the field of data analytics, how it can solve real-world problems, and potential careers.

“They’re not yet applying to college but they’re starting to think about it and they are starting to think about what they may or may not want to do with their lives,” she said. “And so we’re getting them at the perfect age.”

Columbus City Schools and Metro Early College High School partnered with TDAI to promote the camp to students. Students from suburban schools in Franklin County also attended. The camp was sponsored by the Women in Analytics Conference and supported by the Connect and Collaborate Grants Program and the Battelle Engineering, Technology and Human Affairs Grant.

McGuire said she felt inspired to develop and offer a camp after reading a national report that showed men outnumbered women 3-to-1 in the field of data analytics, and the numbers for underrepresented minorities are worse. Last year, McGuire formed a committee of 12 women faculty and staff from across the university who helped with the design and outreach for the camp.

Campers worked with current Ohio State students majoring in data analytics, computer science or other data-heavy fields. Campers also explored hands-on experiences using data and animation software, data visualization and data-driven presentations with faculty across campus.

Maxwell Williams, a third-year data analytics major, served as an instructor for the summer camp. He said he hopes that what appealed to him about data analytics will appeal to campers.

“I was interested in pure mathematics and I always was interested in puzzles. Really, that’s what computer science is all about: solving puzzles,” he said. “But then I found that some of the puzzles I was most interested in were the ones that involved large numbers and large sets of data. And that’s exactly what this major is tailored to.”

Campers were able to experience data science in use at the university’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and DesignByrd Polar and Climate Research Center and Translational Data Analytics Institute. Guest speakers included faculty and staff who use data to study everything from medicine to engineering to dance.

“We’ve achieved the goal of conveying to them that data analytics is not sitting behind a desk crunching numbers. That’s really apparent,” said Amy Spellacy, co-director of the camp and administrator for the Discovery Themes in the Office of Research. “So it’s really about opening them up and broadening their vision of what this career could be.”

Alexis Cunningham, an eighth-grader from Columbus Academy, is a self-proclaimed science nerd. She hopes to become a forensic lawyer, and said the camp helped her look at data analytics in a new light.

“[Camp] definitely made me want to consider studying data science. Data is everything,” she said. “So I’m thinking about ways I can use the data in forensic science.”

McGuire said lessons learned this year will improve the camp next year. She said the camp serves one of the central missions of Ohio State.

“This is a land-grant university. We were founded to make a difference in this state and to move this state forward,” she said. “We have an obligation to reach out to the people who may not be excited about the science or may not be aware of it and get them involved. Because ultimately this is what Ohio State and TDAI are about.”

 

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