Upper School students talk data science

On Dec. 10, our ninth- and 10th-grade students learned how data is a major component of our life, from computers and cell phones to cars and music.

William Reith, an Associate Consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading strategy and technology consulting firm that provides services to the U.S. government, spoke to students about data science as part of Norfolk Collegiate’s Hour of Code.

The Hour of Code is a national program that teaches students the basics about computer science. During the Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 7 through 13, students around the country are introduced to coding techniques through computer science tutorials.

“Coding is more and more becoming a ‘now’ skill and one that may indeed help students get good jobs after college,” said Dr. Chuck McCormick, head of the middle and upper school. “Additionally, it is fun and probably much easier than most of us think.”

Reith who is extremely passionate about data science discussed the importance of coding and some of the potential career opportunities in the field.

Reith is the father of first-grade student Kayleigh ’27 and teaches coding to Collegiate students after school.

“Data coding is a small piece of the coding industry,” said Reith. “Information comes in massive amounts and the speed of data is too fast for humans to figure out what goes where, which is why machines help to control information in a split second.”

Collegiate’s Lower, Middle and Upper school students participated in the Hour of Code to further their understanding of data science. 

While our Middle and Upper School students learned about coding through code.org and lectures, our Lower School students explored coding through video games. 

"With over 191,000 groups around the world joining in, we began our 'hour' the prior week to the national date," said Brenda Pidgeon, Lower School technology instructor. "Our fourth-grade students completed code.org's first course during the first grading period and are now working on the second course.  The fifth-grade class began the second course this grading period also. There are some fun new coding games geared towards Star Wars and Mine Craft, and Frozen and the Flappy Game are a few that are back from last year. Depending on where the students were in their coding, I let them play those games throughout the Lower School."

As we live in an ever connected world, information is requested by new technology devices every second, which contributes to the large amount of data that is collected by coding companies.

“Big data is an emerging job market,” Reith said. “Five years ago, there were no degrees in data science. Now, at the graduate level, you can earn a degree in this field.”

Data science is a leading component in the STEM field, whose foundation revolves around math, computer programming and engineering.

“Big data is being expanded by things that we use consistently, including phones, computers and cars,” Reith said.

With the emergence of new social platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, companies are seeking to understand its consumers, and they use survey analysis to gather data for that purpose.

“Most large data was ignored or not processed until recently,” he said.

Reith used examples of video game imagery data usage by GE and how thieves were able to use data to hack into cars.

Car hacking and its usage of data is a rising issue because hackers are using radios, Bluetooth and wireless connections through satellite radio, Android auto and Apple radio to collect information about cars.   

Students found this to be a very intriguing way to look at data consumption.

Parker Purrington ’19 was one of those students, “the fact that you can get into a car without a key by using the internet is mind blowing.”

“It was interesting to learn how long it takes to develop a program for a single command, such as a video game scene,” said Chris Bunch ’19.