Set to have a tangible impact on campus, the Boston University Data Science Association has partnered with BU Sustainability to solve real environmental problems on campus. Hosted by BUDSA, participants will work on datasets for 24 hours from March 18-19.
BUDSA has received data from BU Sustainability regarding sustainability efforts on campus that participants will analyze. The three challenges to tackle are waste intensity scoring of large residential dorms, backtracking buildings emissions and predicting food waste from catered events, according to the Data4Sustainability website.
“We want to make sure that all the work that’s completed at the Datathon actually has a real world impact on campus,” said BUDSA President Christina Xu, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Participants will form groups of four to six and work together on the datasets. Their work will be submitted for judging based on technology, creativity/innovation and completeness categories for the chance to win a $1,000 prize in each challenge, according to Data4Sustainability.
Last year’s datathon used a “generic data set” that was found online, Xu said. This year is the first time the event will use “real-world data,” all on a much larger scale.
With the help of BU Spark, BUDSA received permission to use the new Center for Computing and Data Sciences to host the two-day event. Although participants will be asked to leave the building at 10 p.m., they “are welcome to continue working on their challenges until the deadline for submissions,” according to the Data 4 Sustainability.
Attendance is expected to grow, with registration already surpassing the 100-person attendance from last year. Xu said she hopes attendance will reach 200 this year. She attributes both the new CDS building and a “stronger brand identity” to this increase.
Many other colleges around Boston host datathons, such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Ryan Nie, a junior in CAS and a member of the BUDSA tech team.
“By having some successful Datathons, we can really bump up our reputation of the CDS school,” Nie said.
Students of all skill levels and backgrounds are welcome to attend and gain experience.
“It’s really hard getting project experience in courses, which is why we wanted to provide an opportunity for [students] to do that,” Xu said.
The datathon features multiple workshops, one being an intro to deep learning that Nie helped organize and will run. Nie said this workshop will provide an introduction to neural networks and the Keras API.
A Github workshop, careers in clean tech hosted by the BU Clean Tech Club and a panel titled “How a small Swedish town is using data to create a sustainable environment,” will also be held at the event according to the datathon event schedule.
“I’m excited to go to the datathon because it’s about environmental change and it’s about our community, and I really believe in that,” said Jeetkumar Vijaywargi, a junior in CAS. “I think that as a community and as a global thinker, we have to start thinking more about our environment and sustainability.”