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  • October 05, 2017 3 min read

    We humans have a natural curiosity about the world that is often most evident in children. When you meet scientists from any discipline this same curiosity still thrives and can be utterly contagious.

    The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) works to provide opportunities for young girls to meet scientists and see a glimpse of a career following that curiosity. Through hands-on activities, conferences and mentoring girls (grades K-12) that curiosity fostered. The Smithers VolunTEENS program and SCWIST will host the Non-Instructional Day Science Extravaganza on Oct 20th from 10am-11:30am with science-based activities and experiments to try.

    Some fields of science are more hands-on and easy to understand as a newcomer. Think of the sciences showcased in museums with their collections of large dinosaur fossils. Microbiology isn't usually on display like that but it does have something in common with paleontology - as all science-based research does. Even the most engaging science can remain elusive from the public and is often not examined even in undergraduate courses.

    That aspect of science is the collection and analysis of data! Data is simply the information that scientists collect. They collect it absolutely everywhere, from the far reaches of space to your interactions online. You will never see more excitement or curiosity than when you watch scientists trying to make sense of data - understanding the story that their experiments and observations are telling them.

    Computers allow us to make comparisons between such large amounts of information that was never previously imaginable. It is only through the advent of faster computers that we can now compare whole genomes among people or other species. Data science is an area where mathematicians, statisticians, computer programmers, biologists, economists, engineers, geneticists, ecologists, physicists and so forth work to figure out how to collect, organize and analyze information.

    To celebrate science literacy week, SCWIST in collaboration with data scientists in Vancouver, British Columbia, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Let’s Talk Science, and Science World (Vancouver) held a free youth event called “What is Data Science?” to promote data literacy. Regardless of the path ahead for today's’ youth there is no doubt that the collection and analysis of information will make them better equipped for it. Understanding how to clearly see the story in all the information around us will keep the next generations asking more questions, something that is desperately needed to continue making scientific progress.

    The event was hosted at Science World, BC, on Sept 23rd. This was a mixed-sex learning environment where over 50% of the speakers and participants were female. Strong female and male role models working together demonstrates to young people that no matter who you are there is a future in Data Science for you.

    Within the workshop people who work in the broad range of data science shared their experiences. SCWIST always aims to empower youth. Erica Acton, a bioinformatician who is part of the organizing team for the event, highlighted the importance of these types of events:

    "Data analysis requires a different way of thinking about problems, and there are often many solutions to a given question. This allows for a type of problem-solving that is creative and flexible, which is hard to learn from a textbook. Our workshop is designed to teach the basics of data science in a fun, hands-on manner."

    Following the event many participants asked us if there would be more events like this in the future. SCWIST will definitely answer this need.

    The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) is a non-profit association that promotes, encourages and empowers women and girls in science, engineering and technology. Their ms infinity program offers events, support, and scholarships to encourage girls to enter STEM fields. 

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