Big Data Challenge for High School Students


New Climate and Information Realities:
From Oceans to Glass of Water

Analyze municipal, federal, global and humanitarian open data surrounding the impacts of climate change on water resources to uncover new trends of relevance to our local and global communities

Your investigation will aid the Canadian Commission for UNESCO in successfully reaching their 2030 Agenda by addressing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Clean Water and Sanitation, Climate Action, and Life Below Water.

Under the patronage of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO

BDC 2019 Participants

2020 SF BDC Participant Demographics 1

What is the big data challenge?

The STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge (BDC) is a unique inquiry-based learning program that enables high school students to strengthen their critical thinking and problem-solving skills while gaining familiarity with data science. By encouraging students to conduct research projects to collaboratively address issues of real-world significance, the BDC fosters the development of young leaders, innovators and digital citizens.

How it works: Teams of up to 4 students are each provided with data sets, workshops, learning resources and tools for data analysis. We present the general competition theme, within which you define a research topic of interest. With the guidance of peer and expert mentors, teams then undertake exploratory analysis of open data to develop sustainable solutions to local and global issues. At the end of the competition, teams submit their research findings in the form of a scientific manuscript. The top teams are invited to present their findings in front of a panel of industry and academic experts in the field.

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!

Check out our full itinerary here.

All abstracts and the top finalists’ full papers will be published by the open access, peer-reviewed STEM Fellowship Journal, published by the NRC Research Press!


This year’s competition focuses on data analysis relating to impacts of global and micro-climate change in water and oceans for communities, energy generation, agriculture, entrepreneurship, and more. Your investigation will aid the Canadian Commission for UNESCO in successfully reaching their 2030 Agenda by addressing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Climate Action (SDG 13), and Life Below Water (SDG 14).

Delve into  water, oceans, and climate change problematics through the prism of the Rabbit Hole of Knowledge 

Explore the UNESCO_SDGs and their interconnection with water and ocean quality

Analyze municipal, provincial, federal, global, and humanitarian open data surrounding water and climate to guide your investigation on how these changes impact our everyday life

Discover patterns using data analytic tools, formulate ideas, and develop models

Propose sustainable solutions for your chosen local, regional, and global environmental problems from an environmental or socioeconomic perspective

Present your research findings in the form of a scientific paper

Why participate


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 

Social Intelligence
The ability to participate in the collaborative  construction of solutions

Digital Citizenship
The ability to utilize information technology in order to engage in society. 


Academic prizes:
– Scholarly publication of all project abstracts and full manuscripts publication of winning project papers in the open access, peer reviewed STEM Fellowship Journal, published by Canadian Science Publishing.
– SciNet Supercomputer Tour
– Receive mentorship from the League of Innovators to scale your project into an entrepreneurship venture

Monetary prizes:
– $1000 Scholarly Communication Award – Toronto
– $1000 Scholarly Communication Award – Calgary



September 21,
September 27,
October 8 -
Orientation Sessions

Q & A for teachers and their students about BDC mentorship and learning opportunities! Our orientation will be held via Facebook live-streams.

The orientation session recording can be found here.

January 18, 2020 - Project Submission Deadline

Submit your project report (developed in Overleaf) before the deadline (11:59 pm EST on January 18) for evaluation by a team of PhD and industry experts.

February 27-28, 2020
- Big Data Day

Take part in Big Data Day in Toronto or Calgary

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

October 18, 2019 - Get Started! (Registration Deadline)

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

Covering entrepreneurial innovations, Overleaf, Cisco Python, R, SAS, and Tableau. To access the workshops (which are available from the start of the challenge), students use JupyterHub, a cloud-based platform provided by Callysto, or download the software directly to their computer.

Organize and plan your project
We recruited a good number of industry experts who are willing to mentor student teams. Based on your team’s choice of data tools, we will match you with mentors from the data analytics and scholarly publishing community.

Work on your data set for 2.5 months
Work together with your mentor and provided resources to analyse your data and propose solutions.

Tell the story of your data discovery through a scientific report
Use Overleaf professional scholarly communication platform to prepare and submit your project report

February 2, 2020 - Finalists Selection

The finalists (top teams per location) will be announced!

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

2019 Finalists

Calgary Finalists

Westmount Charter School: Elena Pan, Claire Schroeder, Amna Sheikh, Julia Zhang 

Westmount Charter School: Allan Cao, Sheridan Feucht

Burnaby North Secondary School: Jay Zou, Kevin Ye, Brian Ning, Brian Yao

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School: Lindy Zhai, Gracia Angeline Soenarjo, Cecilia Liu, Brennan Cowley Adam

Webber Academy: Shounak Ray, Jaqueline Seal, Evin Chin

St. George’s School: Kevin Li, Joshua Xu, David Zuo

Webber Academy: Nicholas Wilger, Nicholas Sweerts, Rohin Dhadli, Daniel Awotundun

Toronto Finalists​

Earl Haig Secondary School: Milad Saadati, Christopher Chifor, Isaac Liao, Seyed Sepehr Seyed Ghasemipour

Mission San Jose High School: Era Dewan, Ayush Dewan

Earl Haig Secondary School: Maria Pasyechnyk, Robin Nash, Arya Shababi, Ali Seena Shakeri

St. Francis High School: Rohit Menon, Aditi Menon

TanenbaumCHAT: Jonah Garmaise, Ethan Ohayon, Ryan Goldberg, Mason Silver

PACE: Claire Beckley, Zev Friedman, Shezreen Khan

St. Malachy’s Memorial High School: Yanfei Wei, Tianming Han

2018/19 Reviewers

Dave Carter is a Research Council Officer with Digital Technologies. He holds a M.A.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and pursues work in syndromic surveillance and situational awareness.

Dave Carter (M.A.Sc.) is an engineer with the Text Analytics group at National Research Council Canada and is based in Ottawa. He is the technical lead for NRC’s situational awareness/outbreak detection platform.

Dr. Svetlana Kiritchenko is a research scientist at the National Research Council Canada. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Ottawa (Canada) and her M.Sc. in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Moscow State University (Russia). She primarily works in the areas of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Her research interests include ethics and fairness in NLP, sentiment and emotion analysis, text classification, social media analysis, and medical informatics. As part of the NRC-Canada team, she has developed several text classification systems (for sentiment analysis and health-related social media mining) that ranked first in international shared task competitions.

CSEAnnualMeetingHeadshots1680 copy

Deepika knows that driving transformation starts from the inside out
and is passionate about making sure that marketing has a seat at the
table to help lead change. She has overseen all aspects of marketing
in large organizations (Wiley, Capcom) and entrepreneurial ventures
(RedLink, Tapjoy), building brands, web and e-commerce, digital
marketing, messaging, demand generation, thought leadership and
strategic events.
Prior to embarking on her Marketing career, at Intel, she was
responsible for analyzing savings for successful product rollouts.
And as an IT consultant, worked with clients to roll out ATT
high-speed data services and lead VOIP features for Sprint.
Deepika holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Bangalore University and a Master of Business Administration from Fordham University.

2017/18 Big Data Challenge

  • SAS Award - Tony Xu and Shayan Khalili (Earl Haig Secondary School)