By Rob Mitchum // May 28, 2015
This week, the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship kicked off its third year, welcoming 42 fellows to Chicago for 14 weeks of intense learning and collaboration. This year’s class is especially diverse, with 23 men and 19 women from 14 countries, and an even division of computer scientists, statisticians, and experts from social sciences, public policy, and other fields. They’ll work with partners from non-profit organizations and government agencies to solve problems in education, public health, the environment, economic development, and more, applying programming tools and analytic methods to create data-driven solutions.
But for the first week, it was all about getting to know each other and finding common technical ground. After a Memorial Day cookout at Montrose Beach, the fellows arrived at the summer’s space in the River North neighborhood for introductions and icebreakers, including the traditional human spectrometer — where participants array themselves in line based on their opinions about statements such as “Edward Snowden was a hero” and “Men are finished.” On Wednesday, they began a four-day technical “boot camp,” learning tools such as Git, Python, R, SQL, and Tableau while working in teams on a real project using City of Chicago building inspection data.
Even before arriving, the 2015 DSSG fellows had already made their impact on the world. In a series of profiles, you can read about an Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and a former city planner from Tel Aviv, a Mexican programmer who fought a corrupt government contract and a political scientist who conducted years of fieldwork in South America, a former math teacher in an urban city school and a statistician who teaches math in a maximum security prison, and young computer scientists who have already started non-profits and tech projects.