Sowing the Seed for Future Data Scientists

For the second summer in a row, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Governance Lab (GovLab) put on camps for middle and high school students to teach them how to harness the power of open data and crowdsourcing to make important decisions in agriculture and food. The students came to USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. for two weeks this summer to learn more about food safety and urban agriculture, as well as to learn more and get excited about data science.

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ESRI Staff assists the students with map layers and the Story Maps application at their headquarters in Virginia.

The camps kicked off with curriculum from GovLab on data science, helping the students learn what types of issues can be explored through data, the techniques used to gather data, the problems of missing data, and more. Beyond the classroom, the students got to map urban gardens around the National Mall, enjoy hands-on lessons about nutrition and food safety, and take a tour of the capital’s largest green rooftop.

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The Urban Agriculture Team notes the types of produce grown in a community-run garden.

Why is this camp so important?

“As more government data becomes available for re-use and redistribution, we need citizens to be able to use for government oversight, to advocate for policies, or to create new businesses. The Open Data Summer Camp is an opportunity to test a curriculum that can get youth excited about data,” said Beth Noveck, The GovLab’s director.

Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, attended student presentations and imparted insights into the importance of data in today’s world.

Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, attended student presentations and imparted insights into the importance of data in today’s world.

The USDA has said that it hopes to encourage future data scientists, data analysts and maybe even some future farmers with the program. Cisco is proud to be a part of helping to inspire these students!