Big Data Challenge

STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge 2017-2018

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Now in its fourth year, the STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge is a competition that helps high school students get excited about Data Science and its potential to support inquiry-based learning and problem solving.

The STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge is an online challenge, and can be participated in remotely in its entirety (mentorship, orientation sessions, Big Data Day). 

Theme for 2017-2018 Challenge

Think Global and Act Local with Big Data”

This time, competing teams will focus on Sustainability: Thinking Globally and Acting Locally with Big Data in order to tackle sustainable developmental problems. Teams will use data and coding by designing environmentally sound solutions ranging from those in their own communities to the globe’s biggest inequalities and threats as defined in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The competition is an opportunity to develop:

Global Citizenship – The opportunity to be part of designing and implementing a vision for a more sustainable world by 2030.

Computational Thinking – The ability to convert large amounts of data into a broad working problem (or How Might We… Problem) and conduct data-based reasoning to refine the problem’s scope.

Design Mindset – The ability to generate and create solutions in contexts where only part of the solutions’ requirements are known ahead of time.

Cognitive Load Management The ability to evaluate the quality of obtained data and then filter the usable information that is needed to produce successful solutions.

Get to know the most pressing problems surrounding climate change through the online footprint of the world’s top academic research publications. Please see the Digital Learner Inroads into Climate Change and UNESCO sustainable development and environmental data.

Following registration, teams will be provided recommended data sets, in addition to data science tools and learning resources from SciNet UofT, SAS, and IBM Cognitive Class. Teams will be offered data science e-workshops and Slack-based peer- and expert- mentorship. Special training will be organised for the Overleaf scholarly writing and collaboration platform that participants will use to prepare and submit professional research reports.

Timeline for STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge 2017-2018

Key Milestone Deadline Date
Registration open

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

The Challenge Registration form can be found HERE.

Orientation Session (with Teleconferencing Option):

Downtown: SciNet UofT – MaRS West Tower, 661 University Avenue, Suite 1140, Toronto ON M5G 1M1

The orientation session form can be found HERE.

*Data science experts from SciNet, IBM Cognitive Class and SAS will be present at all orientation sessions.

The teleconference link can be found HERE

October 12th, 2017

4:00 – 5:30

Team registration deadline

The Challenge Registration form can be found HERE.

Please pay the participation/abstract publication fee of $100 + tax per team to complete your registration for the challenge. 

October 20th, 2017
Project Development begins Mentorship begins

Teams are connected with academia and industry experts for mentoring & support

Project report mentorship provided through Overleaf (at least 1 help session will be scheduled)

October 21st, 2017
Deadline for Full Project Report submission January 19th, 2018
Judging panel reviews project submissions Weeks of January 22nd, 2018 & January 29th, 2018
Announcement of Finalists Week of February 5, 2018
Big Data Day: SAS Headquarters, 280 King St East, Toronto, ON M5A 1K7

Finalist teams will present in front of judging panel

Roundtable discussion on Future of Data Science and Analytics Careers with industry experts

Award ceremony where the top 3 teams are recognized

February 22, 2018





Orientation Session Recordings from the 2017-2018 Big Data Challenge 

Presentations of competition resources, tools and topics by SciNet UofT and SAS.

SAS Canada Academic Program Resources for Faculty in Canada


SAS Canada Academic Program Resources for Students in Canada

Orientation Session Full Teleconference

What are the prizes for the winners?

  • The prestige of scholarly publication of all project abstracts and full manuscripts of winning project papers in the prestigious STEM Fellowship Journal, published by NRC Research Press. 
  • Monetary prizes for award winning teams include $1000 from SAS. 
  • IBM Blue Gene super-computer tour.
  • A special prize awarded by SAS. 

More prizes are on the way!



 Farooq Qaiser

Farooq  is a Data Analyst with MaRS Data Catalyst where he uses data science techniques to advance understanding of innovation and entrepreneurial activity in Canada. Prior to that, he worked as a Market Research Analyst at Bell.

In his spare time, Farooq enjoys giving back to community (Data4Good), competing  in hackathons (winner at HackOnData 2017) and working on side projects (currently building a self-driving car).

Farooq has a BSc in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Indrani Gorti

Indrani Gorti is currently working as  Data Scientist in Banking.  She has a Masters in Computer Science  and has experience working as Data Scientist/Data Engineer in her previous roles at Bell Canada and Nuance Communications. She was a winner in the Toronto Apache Spark Hackathon 2016 (Toronto) and has keen interest in working with data from different domains.  Indrani is interested in mentoring students and to aid in discussions regarding career options in working with large scale data.

 Jay Rajasekharan

Jay Rajasekharan started his career as a project engineer at Honeywell Aerospace, where he managed a portfolio of projects that focused on quality improvement, cost reduction, and process improvement for Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin. Subsequently, Jay made a switch from engineering to analytics and joined IBM as a business analyst under the Infrastructure Services division. Currently, he is driving several productivity programs – using data analytics to drive insights from business operations and implementing optimizations such as streamlining workflows, improving service levels, and ultimately reducing cost. Aside from his career, Jay is very passionate about teaching – he volunteers as a tutor at his community library and as an Alumni mentor at the University of Toronto.

 Motasem Salem

Motasem is a Data Scientist / Data Engineer at Flipp. His background is in Computer Science and he is currently pursuing a Master of Information and Data Science degree from UC Berkeley. He worked previously in Software Engineering, Enterprise Application Integration and technology focused strategy consulting.

Shruti Bhanderi

Shruti is a Masters (Computer Science) student at McGill University. She has been working as a Data Scientist intern at Ericsson. She applied to to be a STEM Fellowship mentor to help and motivate students for their career in data science. She wants to share her insights in Computer Science gained through her journey of undergrad, masters and industrial experiences.


Judging Panel

Judges will include individuals from IBM, SAS and UNESCO! Names to be announced!


The challenge is recognized by the Parliament of Canada




Big Data Challenge 2016-2017 Winners

(as published in the STEM Fellowship Journal)




SAS Grand Prize Winners - Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School

Leon Chen, Curtis Chong, Emily Huang, Nathan Lo
'Effects of Climate Change on Canadian Forest Fires'

IBM Big Data University Award Winners - Earl Haig Secondary School

Tony Xu, Shayan Khalili, Cynthia Deng
'A Study on Factors Related to Readership of Scientific Articles'

Digital Science/Altmetric Award Winners - Earl Haig Secondary School

Peter Chou, Kevin Hong, Chandler Lei, Haolin Zhang
'Correlation Between Cancer Research Trends and Real World Data: An Analysis of Altmetric Data'

SAS Prize Winners - TanenbaumCHAT Wallenberg Campus

Joseph Train, David Roizenman, Seth Damiani, Ronny Rochwerg
'An Analysis of Time and Engagement for Articles Relating to Oncology'

Big Data Day Finalist Presentation Livestream:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Big Data Challenge 2016-2017 Figshare