On the morning of February 24, 2018, over 150 enthusiastic students from different colleges around the University of Maryland gathered with experts from the Digital Curation Innovation Center (DCIC) and other sponsoring organizations at the UMD Riggs Alumni Center for the UMD iSchool Data Challenge 2018 event. The students embarked on an exciting week-long journey of problem-solving, number crunching, and data-wrangling to provide data analytics and digital curation ideas with a theme of Information Innovation for Social Good. The excitement was evident as participants were lined up at the entrance before the registration officially opened. During the event, there was constant activity with mentors assisting teams, encouraging them to come up with innovative ideas using the data they had chosen to work with.
The DCIC provided 3 datasets for students to work on and enhance their digital curation, user experience and data analytical skills. The datasets focused on historical, cultural and human justice collections. DCIC Director Richard Marciano and Software Architect Greg Jansen participated in the event as mentors and inspired participants to leverage the datasets and combined with their knowledge of the ever-advancing technology to provide results that will empower the community. Student teams were encouraged to extract insights from the data and create interesting narratives.
With overwhelming student participation, motivation from the mentors, a chance to interact with key industry experts, and scrumptious food, it was a splendid kick-start for the first ever UMD iSchool Data Challenge.
After a week of problem-solving, number crunching and data-wrangling, the Finale of the Data Challenge took place on the morning of March 3 at the University of Maryland. The judges were quite impressed with how well the students had leveraged technology and provided data as well as abided by the theme of Information Innovation for Social Good. One of the judges, Ying Lu, a Data Scientist at Google, shared that he was highly impressed by the winners of the Social Impact category, who had utilized the Morten Beyer and Agnew Aircraft data to study the carbon footprints left by the airplanes.
It was exciting to see several teams of undergraduate students participating in this event and showcasing their skills at such a major event. One of the undergraduate teams that really impressed all judges used data from the DCIC’s Mapping Inequality project, that focused on racial zoning as a result of the 1929 stock market crash that devastated America’s economy. The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC), created by President Franklin Roosevelt, created maps that graded neighborhoods based on racial/ethic presence, high and low-income families and environmental problems and made financial decisions based on them. In this study, the team of students analyzed the level of vulnerability of American families based on several variables and highlighted a geographic trend between those of whom benefited and suffered the most. Among security grade ranking, they found that the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had the strongest ranking, while Vinton, Virginia had the lowest. They also found that the HOLC did discriminate against low-income and minority families, and foreign and negro inhabitants when evaluating the distribution of economic relief.
Overall the participants enjoyed working on the datasets, the mentors cherished guiding the students, the judges appreciated the hard work of the teams and the sponsors too enjoyed interacting with the participants – the event was a hit!