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2019-20 Data Jam competition sees more students, new talents

Screenshot of Minecraft world created by student, Simon Spahn-Rodriguez, depicting his data story about the effects of ocean pH on fish larvae.

In just its second year, the NES-LTER Data Jam saw nearly three times as many student entries and broadening the region of engagement.  Education Outreach specialist, Annette Brickley, commented, “I think we’re reaching new teachers through the Massachusetts Marine Educators (MME) annual meeting each year in May, which is great, but I think our best reach is the teacher to teacher sharing.” The annual MME meeting will be virtual this year, but Brickley is hopeful that the advent of the Spring 2020 Mini Data Jam will also help teachers get a taste of the Jam. She mentions, “I’m so excited after judging all of this year’s full Data Jam projects, I’m ready for more.  Every single project makes me smile, and I think our other 9 judges would agree.”

The 2019-20 Data Jam had 21 student projects fully submitted, involving 90 students in grades 6 through 11. Creative projects included puppet shows, models using anything from boiling water to basketballs, crutches, and books, skits, student-composed beats and raps, an artistic foldable poster, and programmed computer animations. NES-LTER Co-PI Stace Beaulieu said, “There was so much creativity going off in all directions this year, and I am thrilled to hear from the students that they gained confidence in working with data and interest in learning about their local ecosystem.”

The data sets are grouped into three levels of difficulty based on the number of variables and the concepts students may need to understand. This year’s winner in the Level 1 category was the the team, Noelle Chandley and Emily Schexnaydre, 7th graders at Luther Burbank MS in Lancaster, MA for their project, 411: A Right Whale Project.  There were no Level 2 entries.  In the Level 3 category, this year’s winner was Simon Spahn-Rodriguez, a Junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in Baltimore, MD, for his project, Fish Can Live in Almost Anything, Just Not Acid. Honorable Mentions go to Maddie Oxnard, Melody Robin, Alyssa Poch, and Eleanor Stanton, Project Sea Surface Temperature from Luther Burbank MS; Ty Agoglia, Hannah Benoit, Anna Hancock, Joann Maldonado-Jacome, The Ocean: Wondrous Whales, from Luther Burbank MS; and Fairhaven High School Data Jammers, The Summer Heat that Shook up the O2, Fairhaven, MA. These creative projects can be seen in the Winners Ring on the NES-LTER Data Jam website.