Data science in high school? Yes, it can be done!

Last week I had the opportunity to give a talk to a group of high school students during a summer camp organized by the University of Trento in collaboration with HIT, CLAB and the support of U-Hopper, SpazioDati and OpenDataTrentino. The focus of the camp: data science.

The question: can a group of students from high school (not only technical institutes but also art ones) manage to solve a data science related problem?

Madness you may think. I thought the same, but what I saw at the camp surprised me. I met students that decided to invest the last week of summer vacation for learning new things and work (a lot!). I met students carefully listening to speeches and presentations with obvious limitations in their knowledge and experience but with a lot of will to do things. If I just think about myself at their age, well, I have more optimistic wishes for the future.

Back to the boys and girls in the summer camp. During the week, they divided into 9 groups and 3 challenges. Just to give you and idea about the challenges, I will tell you something about the one we proposed (the other 2 were proposed by the other partners SpazioDati and OpenDataTrentino).
The subject: Russia 2018. The challenge: take advantage of big data for forecasting the results of matches (or, better, the winner of the matches) while studying bookmakers’ quotations for defining a strategy allowing to maximize revenues starting with a 1.000 € start-up budget. Definitely a problem that could prove a match for master students in the university.. maybe a little to much for high school students? Our challenge included various interesting aspects ranging from the analysis, cleaning and integration of historical data (FIFA ranking, historical results, …), the analysis of stream data (Twitter feed and news from sport articles), the definition of predictive logics (based on both models and machine learning) and the inclusion of economical aspects (the definition of a investing strategy based on the data predicted by the algorithms). Did we exaggerate?

Maybe a little bit, but if it is not difficult it is not a challenge. Once we started drafting our ideas we were not able to stop and kept adding new stuff.

The results? We were surprised. Definitely heterogeneous, sometimes naive, but very very interesting. In particular, they discovered and proved great problem solving and creativity .

This has really been a great experience. Kudos to the University of Trento – DISI – and to the never tired Alberto Montresor not only for the organization but also for inviting us. We hope to meet again next year during the new edition of the summer campus.

PS. I am often asked this questions: why is U-Hopper participating to events like this? Why wasting time in something that is not going to produce any money or other tangible benefits? The answer is really simple: ethics and responsibility. As a company, we gained a lot from the local ecosystem and I truly believe that it is our duty to give back to the community all that we received.