Data Analytics in High School

As I was walking out of my 9th grade pre-calculus class at Dexter School on the way to lunch, I heard Ms. Lowell call my name. “George, have you ever heard of computer science? I think you’d love it!”

What was computer science? Like building computers? I was currently struggling with my introduction to engineering class, so I quickly shrugged off the thought.

“Thanks,” I replied. “I’ll look into it.” I wouldn’t, though. We had chicken parmesan for lunch, so I was already halfway down the stairs. Everyone knows you have to be early for chicken parm.

 

Campus of Dexter School in Brookline, MA (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This past winter break, I returned back to Dexter to catch up with some old friends and teachers. During my visit, I ran into our beloved headmaster, Mr. Vincent. As usual, he wanted to know how I was and what I’ve been up to.

“So what kind of work are you doing?” he asked. “What are you studying?”

I told him that I am majoring in computer science and mentioned a few of the data analytics projects I have worked on.

He smiled and replied enthusiastically. “Wow, that sounds awesome. What an amazing experience. Now, what exactly is data analytics?”

Data analytics is the process of understanding a data set and then analyzing it to discover trends and actionable insights. In this blog, I will emphasize the importance and appeal of data analytics and propose a unique addition to my high school’s curriculum.

 

The necessity and appeal of computer science (courtesy of GeekWire and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

One of the fastest growing industries, computer science is dominating the job market. It seems as if every company has some sort of data analyst role, and if they don’t, they’re racing to catch up. Because of my deep passion for the field, along with the incredible amount of experiences I have already enjoyed, I frequently imagine where I could be today if I had an earlier start.

I would love to see Dexter implement a computer science curriculum to expose high school students to the vast amount of experiences the subject offers. Understandably, writing code and learning languages might seem daunting – that is often the reason my friends have shied away from computer science classes. However, an abundant amount of available resources teach incredibly valuable concepts in an engaging and unintimidating manner.

My recommendation for a class would be “Sports Analytics”. My interest in data science originated from Cats Stats – Davidson’s sports analytics group. This class would adapt similar projects at a high school level.

Part of Davidson’s Cats Stats team collecting data at a home basketball game

I think sports analytics would work at Dexter because the majority of high schoolers are either athletes or fervent fans. The students could meet with various coaches at the beginning of the semester and collaborate on different projects. These projects would require the accumulation of data at games or practice, so students would become even more invested in the team. Then, after performing the necessary analytics, students would present their results to the coaches.

Offering students the opportunity to be around varsity sports teams and to contribute to their success would be invaluable and generate tremendous appeal. Furthermore, learning how to find meaning in data and present these findings to a “client” are two of the most important skills in the industry. This course would be an incredibly unique experience, especially for high school students, and it might even generate more appeal than the chicken parm.

 

In the next 4 blogs of this data analytics series, I’ll provide examples in which data analytics have played a major role in solving real-world problems, including experiences of my own; and in the last blog, I’ll discuss the future of data analytics.

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