Jeanette Blain | Staff Writer | @JeanetteBlain
On March 27 and 28, the first annual Utah Data Dive was held at UVU. The event was organized by Assistant Professor Bart Poulson, with a grant from the UVU Office of Engaged Learning.
Over 60 students, teachers and working professionals gave their time to help solve data problems for local nonprofit groups.
The theme of this year’s event was Data is all About Love. The event was all about giving back to the community. Both the Utah County Crisis Line and the Springville Museum of Art provided information for analysis. The data was cleaned up, analyzed and streamlined so that the organizations could better use the information for things like grant writing and staffing decisions.
Participation was free and included meals, snacks, drinks and a t-shirt.
A raffle was held at regular intervals throughout the event. There were many prizes, including a 2 TB hard drive, two iPads, and several Ukrainian painted Easter eggs designed especially for the event by Poulson’s sister, Lehi artist, Rynna Poulson.
The Utah Data Drive was partly modeled on an event that Poulson and his students attended at the University of Michigan last year, and on the work of DataKind.org. .
“A lot of these people here are in my stats class now, so this is all brand new to them,” said Poulson.
His goal is to get students prepared to compete in larger competitions, like the ones held by Big Data Utah.
Students from other universities also participated. BYU Assistant Professor Christophe Giraud-Carrier brought students from his data-mining course.
John Kerley-Weeks, computer systems manager at USU, was there with a group of management information systems students. He said that big data is an aspect of business that IT students can no longer ignore.
“You’re impacting the bottom-line in the decision making that’s happening at organizations. You’re giving them knowledge (with the data), where they had to run on intuition before,” he said.
The event wasn’t just for coders and data analysts; people from all backgrounds were encouraged to participate.
Poulson said his goal was to get people who can analyze the data, others who can facilitate between groups and others who can help present the data in a user-friendly, visual format.
“It’s interesting to see the whole process,” said Holland Rymer, a UVU exercise science student.
The event was a way for students to do good for the community, gain valuable experience, and maybe an extra line on their resumes.