Undergraduate Big Data Challenge 2019


The Big Data Challenge (BDC) is a competition that helps  students get excited about Data Science and its potential to support inquiry-based learning and problem-solving with open data. The Big Data Challenge involves STEAM students undertaking independent research projects to tackle real-world problems with the best industry analytical tools while learning about digital citizenship.

How it works

We present the general competition theme within which you define a research topic of interest.  We supply you with relevant open data and leading data analytics tools with which you carry out your inquiry, come with ideas, develop solutions and present your findings in the form of a research paper.

The best part is you don’t even need to have prior data science knowledge to join! We will provide you with access to resources and webinars to learn everything you need to succeed!


This year’s competition will encourage students to explore a computer-based approach to the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of recreational drugs, and quantify their xenobiotic effects as well as the impact exerted by these drugs in human health and on society.

The challenge will be based in the analysis of open data from Health CanadaUnited Nations Office on Drugs and CrimeDrug Bank, the National Cancer InstituteGoogle Data Search, and other open data sources identified by students.

Through this challenge, students will: 

  • Collect and analyse data pertaining to recreational drugs at the biological, checmical, psychological, and sociological levels
  • Gain insight into the use of pharmacometric models to quantify the interactions between drugs and human patients
  • Characteriseunderstand, and predict implications of drug use on individual health, public health, and the socioeconomic levels
  • Explore human health and well-being issues (physical health, public health, mental health, etc.) in the context of local, regional, and public health.
  • Identify and suggest safe consumption, production, and selling strategies, and policies to prevent or decrease harmful consequences of xenobiotics upon the health of individuals of society.

Check out our full itinerary here

Engage in self-directed learning through trial-and-error. Participate in our workshops to learn the data science skills needed for you to analyse your problems. 

Participate in workshops to learn the data science skills needed to analyse problems. 

Interact in person and remotely with mentors and students across Canada via Slack 

Have your work published in the STEM Fellowship Journal! The top 3 finalists have full manuscripts published and all participants have their abstracts published. 

Practice your communication skills and present your findings to a panel of judges. 


Research Internships

Monetary prizes
$1000 Roche prize- Toronto 
$1000 Roche prize- Calgary 
$500 Roche prize- Toronto 
$500 Roche prize- Calgary

Scholarly publication of all project abstracts and full manuscripts of winning projects in the STEM Fellowship Journal, published by NRC Research Press. 


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.


MARCH 11, 2019

Form your team(s) of up to 4 students and register online. This challenge has been made free, thanks to the generous donations from the University of Calgary HunterHub.

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 in your future careers as well!

Workshops Covering entrepreneurial innovations, Overleaf, Cisco Python, R, SAS and Tableau.

Organize and plan your project We recruited a good number of industry experts who are willing to mentor student teams. 

Work on your data set, using your mentor and resources provided to support your research process. 

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

MAY 13, 2019

Registration ends

Competition formally starts. 

WEEK OF JUNE 10, 2019

Announcement of finalists, following assessment of reports by PhD reviewers

WEEK OF MARCH 25, 2019

Orientation Sessions held at University of Toronto and University of Calgary

MAY 23, 2019

Deadline for report submission. 

Reports submitted in Overleaf format. 

WEEK OF JUNE 24, 2019

Big Data Day Toronto: June 25th, 2019

Big Data Day Calgary: June 26th, 2019

Teams’ 10-minute presentations and competition.

Teams gather for presentation and defense.

Open roundtable discussion on “Big Data and Policy: A Cross-Sectoral Conversation”

Judges determine the top projects.