Monday, September 21, 2015

Data doesn't lie - Mentor experience by Upaang Saxena (Bangalore camp)

When I first learned about the data science camp being organised by Aspiring Minds, I made an assumption that it would be for some college students. But, when I was told that students from classes 6th-10th would be attending it, my first reaction was “What? How can they understand data-science?”

But, to my surprise, the kids were smart enough to not only understand the concepts of data-science, but also know how to apply data-science in their day-to-day life.
The day started with an introductory session about Data-science. Involvement of kids in this session was a key. When a student answered that “Data is very useful in investment of a company based on stocks etc.”, I knew, that it will be an interesting session. After this, there was an ice-breaker exercise, where we grouped students in a pair of two. In this exercise, we gave students some random images of Indian scientists and there work, and asked them to match these images. They Googled it to confirm their answers and worked together.

Now, I was mentoring one group of 2 students. Both the students were very curious about what is going to happen next. We distributed them one envelope each with some papers inside. The papers contained some questions, where the student was asked to rate a picture with some random name, according to what he feels to make that person his friend. Now, we exchanged the sheets of students among themselves.
When asked about what they have done with that Questionnaire, one kid of my group of student clearly said, that “we are giving you data to make a model”. As he said, we started building a “Friend Predictor” and they were excited about it. We taught them some basic concepts of Ms-Excel. We showed them how to represent data visually with the help of bar charts and Line charts. My pair of kids were choosing the bar charts for themselves and was arguing about “why this chart is better that one”.
Suddenly, while we were helping the students to make their models, one student asked one question- “Bhaiya, how can I apply for internship in this company? I want to be part of it.” 
For me, this was the moment of the day. An 11 year old kid asking for an internship opportunity was definitely something unexpected for me.

After the model building exercise, we gathered together in conference room. We made the students’ realise what “Data” can do. Even if we don't say anything about our likes and preferences, with the help of data, we can easily predict the likes and dislikes of a person.
Then, in the later part, we asked the students to have some more of the sample sheets and check that up to what extent this “Friend predictor” is working. They were amazed to see the beauty of data and I was happy to see that they learned something.

It was a unique and wonderful experience mentoring the students. This camp made me strongly believe that education is lot more than conventional school teaching and if students in this age groups be given an opportunity to learn these concepts, they will definitely do some good for our society and help India grow by making some “data driven decisions”.
Thank you Aspiring Minds for letting me mentor the students and giving me this wonderful opportunity to interact with some minds of future. 

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