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Data in a digital age

We are awash in a sea of data. When you accessed your smart phone to navigate from home, your location and destination were tracked by satellite. When you bought something online, or ran a search as part of your research, those data were recorded. That exponentially growing pile of data includes medical records, financial records, educational records, and criminal records, to name but a few. Consider that in a single day, UPS tracks more than 16 million packages, and receives almost 40 million tracking requests from customers. Such is the growth in size and complexity of data that it even has a name—Big Data. The difficulty with such enormous data sets isn’t that they’re there, it’s that they are extremely hard to process. They need to be analyzed and sorted, classified and compared, sifted through for similarities and differences. Only in this way can they become useful. How is this important? The imbalance between those with the competence to perform those kinds of analyses and the needs of business is huge. It is estimated that the supply of suitable talent is perhaps 20% of demand.
Of course, not everyone has the interest or ability to be a data scientist. But the need to possess STEM skills and be STEM competent transcends any particular career—it has become foundational and so is necessary regardless of career choice. Classes in statistics and robotics, in engineering design and programming, have value in any career by stimulating problem solving, creativity, and analytical thinking. Classes like these present students with real-world problem solving opportunities, they integrate learning across disciplines, and focus on the application of knowledge. Such an education is a pre-requisite for success in any 21st Century field. Educating our students to be technologically competent is no longer optional–it is essential

Innovation at work!
Innovation at work!

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