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Hackernoon logoData Science Superheroes Come to the Rescue by@dfeldman

Data Science Superheroes Come to the Rescue

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@dfeldmanDaniel Feldman

In Minnesota, volunteer professional and student data scientists come together to help nonprofits

What do a charity that helps with substance abuse, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and a group of Twin Cities homeowners all have in common? All of them need urgent data science help! On Wednesday night, these groups came to the University of Minnesota to present their data science projects to more than 40 students and practitioners of data science at the New Year’s Data Science Resolution event, organized by StarEightyTwo and Social Data Science.

The event united those who want to learn and practice data science with organizations that need data science volunteers. Each organization had a chance to pitch its idea, and the data scientists in attendance discussed the ideas, decided which projects to work on, and formed teams to collaborate on the projects for the next three months.

Out of eight project pitches, the data scientists in attendance decided to work on three:

  • A project to help Avivo, a Twin Cities nonprofit dedicated to serving homeless and low income individuals, improve its chemical health treatment and recovery programs. Courtney Flug and Boyd Brown from Avivo presented their idea: using data from Avivo’s case database to build models to achieve better results in these programs. One team of volunteer data scientists will work closely with Avivo experts to reach this goal.
  • A project to help homeowners understand house prices. Working with Shannon Furlong, a realtor capturing the data, our volunteer data scientists will build a predictive model of sale prices for thousands of homes in the northeastern Twin Cities metro. With this model, homeowners will take the power of information into their own hands in order to negotiate better prices when buying and selling.
  • A project to help the Science Museum of Minnesota improve its fundraising. Beth Varro, the Director of Membership Services at the Science Museum of Minnesota, needs help growing the museum’s membership base and enabling the Science Museum to continue to offer great attractions. Using data from the the museum’s membership database, the team will build a predictive model to improve fundraising.

The three teams will work on their projects for the next three months, and present the results of their work at a grand finale in April.

If you’re interested in participating in the New Year’s Data Science Resolution, it’s not too late to join any of these teams. Email Daniel Feldman at for more information.

StarEightyTwo and Social Data Science are nonprofit organizations that together have held eight data science hackathons and hosted more than 30 free and educational meetups. Past hackathons have featured Generation Next, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Habitat for Humanity, Aeon, and Mapping Prejudice, among other local organizations.

Data Science Superheroes at the Carlson School of Management

Thanks to MinneAnalytics for sponsoring food and drink, and the Carlson School of Management for providing meeting space.


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