Nov. 11 — Focused on developing and supporting broadening participation and a more diverse, inclusive advanced computing workforce, this year’s SC16 conference will co-locate with a four-day long student cohort experience themed around social change that will engage ~20 undergraduate and graduate students.
The inaugural Advanced Computing for Social Change program will capture the imagination of millennial and post-millennial students by engaging them in a computing challenge that uses computation, data analysis and visualization to take a data centric view of the police violence and rhetoric surrounding the BlackLivesMatter movement.
The objectives of the program are to engage students in a social change challenge using visualization and data analytics to increase awareness, interest, and ultimately inspire students to continue their path in advanced computing careers; to increase the participation of students historically underserved in STEM at SC; and to create a cohort of students that will become ambassadors for future SC conferences and social challenges requiring advanced computing. The event is hosted by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), SC16, and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).
“Many of these students, millennials and post millennials, have never known anything but violence in one way, shape or form – school violence, terrorism, and war,” said Dr. Kelly Gaither, XSEDE’s Director of Community Engagement and Enrichment and TACC’s Director of Visualization.
These millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are now the largest, most diverse sector of the population and represent the largest generation to date. Post-millennials are easily keeping trend with respect to size and are surpassing millennials with respect to diversity. These two generations have grown up in an age of pervasive and often-times ubiquitous technology, violence, and with the introduction of the Internet, information overload.
“We will teach the students to use risk terrain modelling, a criminology risk analysis method to determine effectiveness in post-prediction of known violent uprisings,” Gaither said. “The students will bring together and analyze social media data, crime statistics, incarceration statistics, geography, tone and tenor of mainstream media, population demographics, weather information, and top trending topics to determine whether they can predict and find causal factors for these violent events after the fact.”
Risk Terrain Modelling calculates relative risk, estimates the zones of influence, and ranks each risk factor by importance, allowing the students to use visualization to prioritize and correlate causation.
“This challenge is intended to be the first of many that focus on the impact that science and technology can have in understanding and providing a data centric view of issues we all face with respect to positive social change,” Gaither said. “One of the skillsets we have here at TACC is bringing lots of different data sets together and trying to take an agnostic, data-centric view.”
The diverse program management team includes sociologist and African American Studies Professor Ruby Mendenhall from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who will co-lead the program with Gaither. “I am very excited about working with the next generation of scholars who will used their technological expertise to help address inequality in U.S. society,” she said. “Our team is interdisciplinary, and we anticipate that the group dynamics will produce a wealth of innovative ideas. During the conference, we will encourage students to be creative and ‘dare greatly’ as they integrate social science data, data analytics and visualizations in ways that can transform our country.”
Millennials and post-millennials also express a greater value to the role they play in their communities, including a close relationship with their families. They rate quality of life as being very important as well as a strong desire to make a positive social impact on their own children and communities and society at large.
“When you talk to these students, you recognize that there are significant social issues that weigh heavy on their minds oftentimes outweighing academic issues,” Gaither said. “However, when they do get into their respective STEM fields they are motivated to give back to their local community, particularly if they’ve come from underserved communities. They are motivated by giving back.”
“The idea is to bring these students together and try to influence a new generation of problem solvers. These students are bright, inspired and socially motivated to make their communities better. We’re excited to be a part of it and we know this has significant potential to improve our understanding of the issues that are common to all of us,” Gaither concluded.