LA City College Forms Data Science Team with City of LA

LA City College Forms Data Science Team with City of LA

In a partnership with the City of Los Angeles government, LA City College (LACC) has formed a civic data analysis team for 2- and 4-year college students and anyone looking to enter the data science profession. The team will complete a beginning-level data analysis project on Friday afternoons during a 10-week period during the Fall 2015 semester, using data provided by the City of LA. We will present our results to City of LA staff in December.

The project is structured as a not-for-credit course through the college’s extension program. LACC faculty member Jocelyn Graf is leading the team and managing the project. LACC is well-known for its math program. The LACC Math Club consistently wins individual and group awards at the national AMATYC competition. In addition to strong math and computer science students, the team will draw from students in pre-health professions and political science because the data has a public health angle.

The partnership originated at the Tech LA Conference sponsored by LA Mayor Garcetti in May 2014, where the City launched its Open Data Initiative. There, Jocelyn approached the staff of the City’s Information Technology Agency (ITA) about finding a way to get community college students involved with analyzing the open data and received an enthusiastic response from Ted Ross, now the City’s CIO and General Manager of the ITA. However, rather than simply advise on which open data set to download, he offered something better: to work directly with City staff on a set of anonymized data to produce real policy proposals.

It took time to usher the project through the administrative structure of both the City and the College, but the team is finally launching this semester with its first project. Because it is housed in the extension, team members do not have to be enrolled in credit courses at LACC to participate. Jocelyn hopes that about half the team members will come from the community and nearby 4-year schools, including people interested in learning to apply statistics and programming to a real data set, as well those who would like to focus on data visualization or the policy side.

Interested in participating as a team member? Visit our info session and intro workshop: Friday Oct. 2, 1:00-3:30 p.m. Franklin Hall Room 106, Los Angeles City College, 855 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029. Sign up here. After the first week, which is free, the complete Fall semester experience costs $249. Full and partial scholarships are available. Please visit the course page for more details.

Interested in volunteering as a mentor? We would like working data scientists to provide lightning talks describing their work or explaining a specific analytical technique, followed by hands-on practice in the computer lab. Mentors are also needed to answer questions remotely for students using Python, R, or Excel and to advise on statistical analysis.

The project involves a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for the data, which is not open to the public.

The data science team also has a Meetup page. Please join to follow our progress.

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