SummerSTEM 2019: Data is all the Buzz!


Highlighted quoteWe’ve been hosting SummerSTEM teachers for 5 years now and it just keeps getting better and better. This year, our focus was on data, which is central to SAS’s mission and also an important component of project-based learning (PBL).

If you’re not familiar, the SummerSTEM program is led by Wake Ed Partnership and its focus is on providing teachers from Wake County Public Schools with professional development on using PBL to enrich student learning in the coming year. Furthermore, teachers get hands-on experience at area businesses to bring authenticity and industry needs to the lessons they develop. At SAS, this experience centered around data, and how it is used to understand the world and make decisions at all levels. To make everything a little more concrete (and fun!) we took a deep dive in looking at bees.

The day started with an overview of SAS’s history and it’s focus on data and analytics. Teachers learned that data is critical to businesses and organizations because it helps them to make decisions and understand their impact.

Next we had an insightful, hands-on presentation from Bee Downtown. Bee Downtown maintains beehives around the Triangle, including the four hives on SAS’s campus. They had a lot to teach the audience about the life and behavior of bees. All of the participants’ senses were engaged, from the buzzing of the bees, the touch of the hive, and the taste of sweet honey.

After a better understanding of bees themselves, we dug deep into the data that SAS collects about its own hives on campus. We discussed what the changes in weight and temperature can signal about bee behavior and how it can drive changes to promote the health of the hive.

The focus on how data helps make decisions and drive improvements carried on into the afternoon. We had an in-depth discussion about the role data plays in closing the PBL loop. Many models of PBL encourage students to iterate on their ideas, by evaluating them and identifying opportunities for improvement. However, this can often be the most challenging part of a project to implement. We encouraged teachers to think of examples of how students could collect their own data about their projects and analyze it to make a plan for further improvements. This is a critical step in the design process and will be part of the careers that students will hold in the future.

Gold Standard PBL from Buck Institute

The Gold Standards of PBL from Buck Institute includes a focus on critique and revision. A perfect opportunity to use data.

We ended the day with an introduction to GatherIQ, a new resource from SAS with a focus on introducing students of every age to the Global Goals with a focus on how data can be used to understand the issues and drive the changes necessary to solve the world’s biggest problems. Teachers were enthusiastic about how GatherIQ could be used in the classroom to motivate PBL centered around the Global Goals.

After a tour of the SAS campus, including a visit to the beehives, participants went home, armed with a better understanding of how data drives decision-making in everything from big businesses, small beehives, and even solving the world’s toughest challenges. We’re excited to see what they come up with to get students using and analyzing data for whatever project inspires them.


About Author

Jen Sabourin

Jen Sabourin, Ph.D., is a Software Developer and Research Scientist as part of SAS’ Social Innovation Division. Presently, her work is focused on using SAS resources and analytic capabilities to have a positive impact on the world, with a special focus on K-12 education initiatives. Jen holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University where her research focused on artificial intelligence and data mining applications for education. She is also passionate about broadening participation in technology and data science and introducing students of all ages and backgrounds to the joys of computer science and analytics.

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