Chaminade’s data science program made another strong showing recently at a national competition aimed at challenging young people to use computing for positive social change.
And students and faculty members say they’re already gearing up for the next challenge.
Three Chaminade students were among 25 undergraduates from around the country to participate in the most recent Computing4Change challenge in Denver. Over three days in November, participants worked in small teams to use data analysis, computational thinking, and the latest data science tools to see how computing can be a driver for social good.
In this case, they sought to better understand the causes of infant mortality.
Dr. Rylan Chong, a data scientist and postdoctoral researcher at Chaminade, accompanied students to the challenge and a connected data science conference. He said Chaminade has actually sent three separate cohorts of students to the competition since the University launched its data science program in fall 2018 as a first-of-its-kind offering in Hawaii.
And Chong said the program is preparing to send its next cohort in July.
He said the gatherings not only help students apply their learning, but offer them vital opportunities beyond the classroom, from internships to networking that could lead to jobs.
“From a curriculum standpoint, participating in these events, students experience an exciting hands-on opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary team with mentors to make an impact on a real-world problem, interact with a supercomputer and big datasets, and get exposed to and apply the latest data science technologies and approaches,” Chong said, in an email.
The challenges, which are sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing, also give students the chance to stretch their leadership muscles. Chong said Chaminade students frequently serve as leaders in their teams.
Chenoa Faletoi was one of the students who participated in this year’s cohort. She said the challenge was high pressure – and a great test of her skills. “I would say the biggest takeaway was knowing the difference between data and information,” she said, adding that the competition also solidified her choice to switch to the data science major.
“Data science is everywhere and can be applied in all fields,” Faletoi said. “In my perspective, I have opened up more opportunities. I am not limited to a specific area of work because data science involves technology and technology is evolving and being incorporated in all fields.”
Student Maria Fratinardo also competed in the challenge.
She said at the end of the three days, she was “super proud” about what she’d accomplished. “It’s made realize that I want to be able to use my skills to help people,” Fratinardo said, adding that she’s interested in focusing on applying data science in healthcare. “I’m learning how to find raw data in order to answer questions to problems that we are currently facing.”