Thu, February 10, 2022


You need to sign in to add a comment

Sign In

Not an OR Society Member

Find out the benefits of being a member

Become a member

A summer camp for OR and analytics

In the summer of 2021, UC Berkeley’s Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department partnered with Georgia Tech and the Kids Teach Tech organisation to deliver a summer camp teaching OR, analytics and data science to young people.

As the summer break in the US education system is over three months long, and many parents and caregivers have limited leave days from work, children are often sent away to summer camps. The camps give the young people a chance to socialise widely and learn a range of life skills, from outdoor pursuits and sports to languages and coding.

The first ‘Seth Bonder Camp in Computational and Data Science for Engineering’ provided space in which young people aged 10-18 could receive an introduction to analytics and data science. All the teaching was done in relation to applications, such as gaming, sentiment analysis, computational biology and medical diagnosis, to help the young attendees see the impact they could achieve by gaining these skills.

The hope was that by demystifying operational research, computer programming and engineering, the camp would support a pipeline of young people considering data science and analytics as choices for further education and employment. The camp was offered free of charge, to help remove barriers faced by some children from communities currently underrepresented in the industry. 

“What I find most inspiring is that most of the kids in this program[me] really have few opportunities to learn this material elsewhere,” said Professor Alper Atamturk (Chair, Berkeley IEOR). “Ultimately, our goal is to inspire them to pursue engineering and data science and create pathways to engineering program[me]s in universities, such as UC Berkeley and Georgia Tech for students with diverse backgrounds.” 

The camp’s programme included modules pitched at four levels from ‘basic’ to ‘advanced’. The first module offered an introduction to the visual programming language Snap! along with units in optimisation, analytics and advanced programming. 

The partner organisations aim to develop the camp so that future iterations will develop and stretch the young people further, allowing them to tackle industry-standard software such as Python. ‘Graduates’ of the camp would then have a level of familiarity and proficiency to set them up for success in further study and employment in data science roles. 

Much of the inspiration for the camp came from Kids Teach Tech, a third sector organisation founded by Arjun Mulchandani, a now-14-year-old student from California who is passionate about teaching other young people to code. His team comprises other young people who are also passionate about creating and teaching programming classes to their peers, both in person and online. A big part of their motivation is reaching “underrepresented youth” in the USA and around the world. 

“We want to let kids know about the revolution that is happening in every field right now driven by data science,” said Professor Pascal Van Hentenryck (Georgia Tech). “By empowering kids with computational and data science skills, and helping them apply them to real-world problems, we are sending the message to kids that data science is for everyone, and that they can be part of the revolution too.”

The full story is available on the UC Berkeley website: bit.ly/3FT0JMa