Community Engagement

Data Jam competition creates path for future data professionals

Data Jam competition creates path for future data professionals

Education, PPG Foundation

For the student participants of the Data Jam competition, discovering and exploring important community and societal topics provides a head start on future education and career paths within data science fields.

The PPG Foundation partnered with Pittsburgh DataWorks, a nonprofit organization formed by software scientists and educators to help make Pittsburgh a “data-savvy” city, for the 2021 Data Jam competition and to offer a hands-on program for data science experience.

With the support of mentors from the University of Pittsburgh, the program’s finale gave students a platform to present their research projects and hear from professionals and PPG data scientists at the virtual finale event in May 2021.

According to the professionals, early exposure to real-world data science applications can make a great impact.

Through a PPG Foundation grant, students had greater access to digital tools for statistical analysis and the ability to have deeper, more frequent connections with their mentors through virtual learning.

Throughout the Data Jam program, the students were introduced to statistical analysis software to help answer pressing questions such as “Does median household income, race and political party have correlations with the number of polling locations per zip code?” and “How does unemployment and delinquency rates affect how much people default on their loans in the United States?”.

As the program enabled the students to explore the possibilities of future studies and careers in big data, Devashish Saxena, vice president and chief digital officer, PPG, indicated that global employment forecasts show a bright future and growing job opportunities within the data analytics and sciences fields.

“From the chemists working in PPG labs, to our manufacturing and supply chain functions, to creating precise color matching formulas, data plays a role in a plethora of operations at PPG,” said Saxena. “Data analytics will continue to fuel job growth in many industries for the years ahead, and the experience provided to Data Jam participants positions them well to further explore these areas.”

Following the Data Jam finale, the leading student team joined Saxena at a PPG Digital Town Hall meeting to present their project and experiences to PPG leaders and data science employees.

Looking ahead, the PPG Foundation and DataWorks are developing plans for additional curricula to introduce the concepts of big data and resolving community problems using data.

The PPG Foundation and Data Jam partnership initiated in 2020 when the program converted to a completely online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn about the previous program and a special DataWorks COVID-19 project, click here.

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