$2,000 Grant Will Help Fund Operations, Raise Program’s Visibility in Challenging COVID Year

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a banner learning season for the Pittsburgh Data Jam. For the third time this academic year, the program for encouraging Pittsburgh-region high school students to consider careers in data science and other STEM fields has been recognized for its efforts: On March 2, a 2021 Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Award for Partnerships of Distinction at the University of Pittsburgh was announced, providing $2,000 to support Data Jam operations this year and bringing public focus to the project.

“This was a very competitive process, and the review committee found your partnership to be an exemplar of mutuality, reciprocity, institutional impact and community impact,” the Senior Vice Chancellor’s office said in its award notification letter.

Lockdown status in each state versus number of COVID-19 cases, March 20-29, 2020, generated by a Pittsburgh Data Jam student and mentor. Visual shows the date of lockdown in each state by turning gray. The numbers on top of the states indicate the number of new cases from that state that day. Credit: Breanna Franchak, Pine Richland High School, and Cassidy Power, University of Pittsburgh.

Founded in 2014, the Data Jam is run by Pittsburgh DataWorks, a nonprofit organization of data analysts and scientists from Oracle, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. The Data Jam’s central mission is to offer training and education to prepare the next generation of big data scientists.

In the Fall of 2020, the Data Jam received a $10,000 Pitt Year of Engagement award. The award extended the program’s reach to underserved schools, creating on-line resources and beginning curriculum development to provide a way to incorporate the Data Jam activity into high school classes. The Data Jam also received an award from the PPG Foundation in December for $10,500. This award was to further develop the high school curriculum, working with the Math & Science Collaborative at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and teachers from Bethel Park High School, long time Data Jam participants.

You can read more about the Pittsburgh Data Jam and its programs here.

You can read about the Data Jam’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping kids engaged despite the obstacles of social distancing, here.