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USDA STEAM Summer Camp

USDA Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Data Science Program at George Washington University are teaming up to design and deliver a tuition-free “summer camp” in 2018 for high-school students (ages 15-17) in the Washington Metro Area that focuses on using Open Data related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math (STEAM).

This two-week long (July 23-August 3, 2018)project-based Summer Camp will introduce participants to the use of data for making important decisions, in the context of the USDA’s work with food nutrition, forestry, and urban agriculture. There will be a special focus on effective and compelling ways to visualize data. Students will explore, analyze, and reconfigure quantitative and qualitative data, using fundamental graphical principles to present their project-related findings.

In the past, student projects harnessed actual USDA-provided data sets as well as original research to focus on issues of urban agriculture, urban forestry and food nutrition.

Urban Forestry—Student teams used open data to map the trees planted in Washington, DC, and then to analyze the benefits of those trees in helping to prevent flood and storm damage, boosting energy savings through moderation of local temperatures and reducing pollution.

Urban Agriculture—Teams looked at the ways in which community gardens impact “food deserts” in local neighborhoods, as well as how they substantially reduce the distance food has to travel from farm to table, that, in turn, helps to reduce both pollution and the loss of food nutrient value.

Food Nutrition—Teams focused on healthy eating and also on identifying what can easily be done in the home to present food-borne illness as well as on the policy approaches that are most effective in assuring the safe operation of restaurants and food trucks.

On-site faculty provided ready guidance on the kinds of questions that can be addressed with data, on the challenges of gathering data through interviews and surveys, and on the techniques for presenting compelling arguments based on data. All students got to work extensively with Excel, Tableau, Illustrator and ESRI’s Collector application for creating GIS maps.


Contact Dr. Larry Medsker