Big Data Challenge

2019 website banner


In partnership with Let's Talk Science
Under the patronage of the Canadian Commission of UNESCO

What is the big data challenge?

Now in its 5th year, the STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge for high school students enables a “data-native” generation of students to discover their analytical and inquiry potential while learning data science fundamentals and developing skill-sets required to be 21st century investigators, scientists, innovators and changemakers. This year, we’ve partnered with Let’s Talk Science to expand the challenge’s in-person events to both Toronto and Calgary (please note that in-person events include the orientation session, which is voluntary and will be recorded, and Big Data Day, the culminating event where finalists present their research and students have the opportunity to meet experts in the field)!

How it works: We supply you, the participant, with a broad problem, to which you must present a solution in the form of a research paper. You must discover a specific problem through the data sets available (we give you a few but you should also find your own!) and then apply your big data analytics knowledge to show the negative effects of the problems. Finally, you must propose a solution to the problem. Easy, right?

The best part is you don’t even need to have prior data science knowledge to join! We deliver webinars and workshops teaching you the basics to get you started on your research!


Theme: Big Data de terre

This year’s competition is focused on exploratory data analysis of Canadian Space Agency (CSA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) open data to produce descriptive and graphical summaries of data with the goal of revealing the impact of environmental condition on human health and well-being. It invites high school students to go further into predictive analytics of optimal environmental characteristics for long-term, long-distance space travel.

  • Collect and analyse geostatic satellite terrestrial data to identify local, regional and global environmental problems
  • Look into human health and well-being issues (physical health, public health, mental health, etc.) through the prism of terrestrial data augmented with your city, province, federal and humanitarian open data.
  • Seek and suggest sustainable environmental solutions for terrestrial and extraterrestrial living space for humans

Why participate

  • The competition is remote, meaning that students anywhere can participate in the Challenge and carry out their research as long as they have Internet access.

  • Have your work publishing in the STEM Fellowship Journal (disclaimer: top 3 finalists have full manuscripts published; all participants have their abstracts published). Hackathons and other Challenges do not offer this opportunity. In addition, we share presentations summarising your work on Figshare, a repository where users can make all of their research outputs available in a citable, shareable and discoverable manner.

  • Engage in self-directed learning through trial-and-error rather than simply watching others code. Participate in our workshops to learn the data science skills needed for you to analyse your problems

  • Unlike with most Hackathons, we offer the chance for finalists to utilise their communication skills through a presentation component delivered to a panel of judges.

The high school Big Data Challenge is scaled at either the national or international level, allowing students the chance to interact with mentors and students from different parts of the world, allowing for the intake of academic knowledge which may currently be restricted to certain cultures.


we emphasize four key skills


Computational Thinking

The ability to translate aggregates of data into abstract concepts and conduct data-based reasoning .


Design Mindset

The ability to create solutions in contexts where only part  of the requirements are known 


Cognitive Load Management

The ability to discriminate and filter the information needed to produce successful solutions 


Social Intelligence

The ability to participate in the collaborative  construction of solutions.


Week of February 4, 2019

September 1, 2018

Registration begins via Google Forms

October 20, 2018

Team Registration Deadline via Eventbrite

Form your team(s) of up to 4 students and register them online.

The Challenge Registration form is here

Pay participation/abstract publication fee of $100 per team.

January 19, 2019

Deadline for Full Project Report submission

February 23, 2018

Big Data Day: SAS Headquarters, 280 King St East, Toronto, ON M5A 1K7

Take part in Big Data Day  

in Toronto at the SAS Canada Headquarters (280 King St East, Toronto, ON M5A 1K7)

in Calgary at the CISCO Headquarters .

Attend in-person or join in online for the presentations!

Expert roundtable

Award ceremony where the top 3 teams are recognized.

Week of October 2, 2018

Week of Oct. 2, 2018 – Orientation Sessions

(Dates TBA):


  1. Downtown and Telepresence Toronto: SciNet UofT

MaRS West Tower, 661 University Avenue, Suite 1140, Toronto ON M5G 1M1


  1. University of Calgary

*Orientation sessions are run by data science experts from SciNet, IBM Cognitive Class & SAS.


Orientation session recording will be provided after the sessions end.

Check out our past orientation session here.

October 21, 2018

Project Development begins Mentorship begins

Crowdsource the knowledge and investigate analytics tools  CISCO Academy Python Pandas, SAS Academy Programing and open source data analysis courses and tools- choose one you will learn and use.

Organize and plan your project

We recruited a good number of industry experts who are willing to mentor student teams. Based on the team choice of data tools we will help to find mentors from amongst the data analytics and scholarly publishing companies/ community.

Also, feel free to go through family connections or use orientation session connections.

Work on your data set for 2.5 months:

Learn together, from your mentor and online.

Slice and dice it, zoom in and out, find patterns, trends, and important segments.

Tell the story of your data discovery through a scientific report.

Use Overleaf professional scholarly communication platform to prepare and submit your project report.

Week of February 4, 2019

Announcements of Finalists

The finalists (top 10 teams) will be announced!

If your team is selected, you will deliver a presentation at Big Data Day, the culminating event for the BDC.

Challenge registration

Orientation Session Registration