Students can gain much from big data projects

It is sad that the National Science Experiment Big Data Challenge will not continue next year (Nanyang Girls' High the big winner in data challenge; Sept 14).

Its merits go beyond kindling an interest in our students in science or merely collating and analysing data.

The data collected could form part of the upcoming Singapore Student Learning Space (New online platform will let students learn at own pace; Aug 17).

Many more generations of students could access the data in a safe environment, make hypotheses and draw inferences.

They can then make better sense of the dynamic environment we live in and the social patterns we encounter. It also offers them an opportunity to work on real issues faced during data collection.

By tying up with existing coding competitions, such as the National Primary Games Creation Competition, and working alongside mentors from higher educational institutions, students would appreciate the value of team work and of approaching these big data issues with a holistic view.

The scope of the project could also be broadened.

Organisations could be encouraged to provide data to the sandbox.

For instance, SMRT and SBS Transit could give data on traffic patterns, and Meteorological Service Singapore could contribute its weather observation and climatological records.

Corporate sponsors could be invited to provide project funding or apprenticeships for projects of commercial interest. Such industrial collaboration could attract graduating students to the organisations later on.

Tapping the creativity of our students, these big data project ideas should contribute significantly to our knowledge repository and further cement Singapore's global reputation in urban planning and technology.

By engaging students beyond their cohorts and exposing them to realistic big data projects early, Singapore will be building essential talent pipelines in our quest to build a smarter nation.

Edward Tay Wee Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Students can gain much from big data projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe