2016 Data Analytics Boot Camp

By AJ Lauer
07/28/2016 - 12:00pm

A group of twelve high school students from the Boulder area joined NCAR statisticians and scientists for the second annual Data Analytics Boot Camp from 27 June through 1 July 2016. Students participated in hands-on activities and listened to lectures designed to teach them about how statistics and data analysis can be applied to real scientific problems.

We asked coach Lee Richardson to tell us a bit about the boot camp and the experience of working with the students:

Logo for 2016 Boot Camp - an eye with a globe as the iris

CISL: What projects did students work on?

Richardson: Students worked on a variety of datasets, ranging from used cars to arctic sea ice. Each dataset exposed students to a different data analysis technique or perspective. For instance, the used car dataset introduced linear regression, whereas the sea ice dataset showed students how to create animations.

The unifying themes of the projects were statistical thinking and R software. Students implemented a wide variety of increasingly advanced data analysis techniques with R. This showed them the wide-ranging applicability of data analysis to many areas of interest.

CISL: What were the learning goals for the boot camp?

Richardson: High school students spend most of their course time studying traditional subjects such as Math, English, etc. The Boot Camp exposed students to the more applied side of statistics, and gave a flavor of the problems statisticians work on in the real world. There were about 20 different instructors from NCAR and universities throughout the country presenting these applied problems.

Students worked through real life datasets under the close guidance of experienced coaches, who ranged from graduates of last year’s bootcamp to statistics PhD students and Post-docs. This set up of one coach for each team of two students allowed the students to ask questions and receive quick feedback on their ideas. The goal was to provide the students with a comfortable environment where they could ask questions, explore data, and experience the joy of data analysis.

Finally, we hoped the Boot Camp could trigger students’ interest in either R, or statistics in general. Last year, two Boot Camp students became interns at NCAR, and bootcamp coaches this year!

CISL: What is the benefit of running a program like this?

Richardson: The Boot Camp benefits everyone involved. Most importantly, it provides the students an enjoyable week where they learn, make friends, and have a lot of fun. This year's students even remarked that they had learned more here in the first two days than they did in entire courses at school.

The instructors and coaches learn a lot too, as we're able to collaborate with other statisticians about the best ways to introduce material in such a fast-paced environment.

CISL: Any final thoughts about the program?

Richardson: It's remarkable how much students learn throughout the week -- from never using R to deploying interactive web applications. They were smart, fun, and hardworking, and it was an honor to be their coach this year.

If you have questions about the Data Analytics Boot Camp or would like more information, please contact Dorit Hammerling (dorith@ucar.edu) or Doug Nychka (nychka@ucar.edu).