3186 Alton Rd
Atlanta, Dekalb County 30341



  • Reina Lingle

by Bharat Bhatia, ATLytiCS - Community Member Content Contributor

“Data for Hope 2019 - The Fight Against Human Trafficking,” an ATLytiCS hackathon in partnership with Southern Data Science Conference ended last night. Hackathon teams had 10 days to understand the business problem, identify an approach, design solid analytics supporting a practical solution that presents meaningful, relevant insights delivered in a clear and concise video submitted by midnight on April 10th.

A panel of judges determined first place and runner up teams by reviewing video presentations and supporting materials submitted by 21 teams. Winners will be announced today, April 12th at 5 p.m. during the Southern Data Science Conference 2019. We heard the judges spent over four hours reviewing the videos. The judges were impressed with the caliber of the Data for Hope 2019 competitors.

In last year’s Data for Hope, Team Roof was presented with the award for “Data for Hope 2018.” Team members included Ying Shen, Xin Ma, and Jia Liu. Last year the focus was on understanding homelessness in Atlanta. I spoke to them about their experiences going into and participating in the hackathon. Jia was key in team formation. He knew Ying and Xin who never met before the hackathon. All three of them have a background in data science. However, Ying suggests hackathons are the best place for anyone at any skill level. She is a Data Analyst at Dekalb Community Service Board, a community-based behavioral health and developmental disabilities service organization. While her career is the same, the CEO looked favorably towards her participation. So participation in hackathons can help people advance in their careers or find jobs if they are looking. This experience provides you the opportunity to network more deeply with others in the Atlanta data science community. Here are four reasons to participate in local hackathons based on the experience from the Data for Hope 2018 Winners - Team Roof:

1. More Team Project Experience:

Now some people may be taking a class in data science, so could participation in a hackathon add additional stress, making it harder to fulfill the class? As Ying puts it, it helps with getting more project experience, which improves the learning experience. Ying’s background is largely in Power BI and data visualization while Jia and Xin have more Python experience. So this helps with bringing together different skill sets to solve a problem.

2. Altruistic Opportunity:

Some people may be motivated to advance their career. Other people may participate to contribute to doing something for the greater good. Jia said he participated in this primarily to help people.

Now, this brings up an interesting point about the intersection of emotion and reason. Historically, we often view them as a dichotomy, with emotion getting in the way of reason. However, could it be that these two can enhance each other? Or maybe they are a double-edged sword, with the possibility of enhancing each other but also have the risk of inhibiting one another? I asked these analysts their opinions about it. Jia says he is primarily emotion-driven. Emotion and the desire to help others is what drives him to get involved.

3. Emotion + Reason = Solution:

Once working on the problem and trying to find solutions, logic takes over. So emotion is the catalyst, but reason is the tool that solves the problem. He says that emotion can potentially cloud judgment in the implementation, but not in the analytics portion. That is, analysts will look at data and present the information to decision-makers. The data has its own voice. However, the decision makers who decide how to implement policies may have a reaction to the data they hear, and this is where emotion needs to be put in check.

Ying says that emotion can help lead the way, but you need logic to solve the problem and accomplish something. However, she describes herself as thinking logically first and then emotionally after in contrast to Jia’s approach. Xin says that everybody in mental health has some kind of emotional motivation so you cannot take emotion out of the equation. While the teammates may differ in whether they emphasize emotion or reason, they all agree on marrying both together to solve the problem.

4. Hackathons are FUN:

So how was the experience? Ying said it was fun. She enjoyed winning and feeling accomplished, but she said the process itself was also fun. Xin says not to think about winning but rather the process itself. Jia extrapolated this to society at large, saying we are shifting to a new paradigm of solving problems with data.

The teams for “Data for Hope 2019” will have an opportunity to practice their data skills. They will have a new project to add to their resume to help them land a job or advance in their career. They will contribute to a cause while making an impact on the most vulnerable members of our community. They will increase their knowledge and experience in a data team experience. Team members will be exposed to coding skills that will encourage growth in fellow team members.

Hackathons enable you to develop a better understanding of how your individual abilities can contribute to a team. You get real-time feedback and skills assessment through collaboration, which is critical to working effectively in teams. You get the opportunity to learn about the expertise of the analytics community. Your participation enhances your resume and professional profile highlighting your originality to enable you to stand out among the competition for talent in the workforce.

Clearly, there are many benefits to participating in a hackathon. What will be your reasons for participating? If you are the winning team for “Data for Hope 2019”, perhaps you will be interviewed about your experiences to share with future hackathon competitors in the Atlanta data science community.

“Let’s use data to make a difference together.” - Dr. Beverly Wright