UOG engineering student invited to data science program for Pacific Islanders
A School of Engineering student at the University of Guam has been invited to participate in a summer research program in Hawaii designed to increase interest and proficiency among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders in data science. Sophomore Nilo R. Espinoza will conclude the month-long training this week.
The program, called Supporting Pacific Indigenous Computing in Excellence, or SPICE, is being held at Chaminade University of Honolulu and led by the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Espinoza is one of 25 other Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students participating.
The students are learning how to use data science, visualization, and virtual reality on problem sets that incorporate geographically, socially, and culturally relevant issues.
“The SPICE program taught me how to create my own hypothesis with a topic relevant to my degree and to work with raw datasets to back it up,” Espinoza said. “My project is about the possible impacts of the built environment — or the manmade surroundings — to the CHamoru culture in Guam.”
Kelly Gaither, principal investigator of the SPICE project, said, “He has done a tremendous job this summer. He has a passion for bringing data and computational science skills back to Guam.”
According to Chaminade University’s Data Science Initiative, “Indigenous populations in Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific region face severe challenges in health, poverty, environmental resilience, and erosion of traditional culture. Solutions to current and emerging problems in the Pacific … will be enabled by [Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander] communities gaining access to, and the ability to work with, large data sets.”
Espinoza’s invitation to participate came following his involvement at two other events — a natural hazards engineering research program at The University of Texas at Austin last summer and a supercomputing conference held at Oregon State University in November, where he was part of a winning team in the Computing4Change competition. He will travel twice more this year to be a mentor at the Advanced Computing for Social Change Challenge at the PEARC19 conference in Chicago and at the Computing4Change Competition at the SC19 conference in Denver.
Espinoza plans to graduate from UOG’s Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering program, which officially launches next semester, and go on to work as an engineer for the government of Guam or become a real estate contractor. He is currently president of the UOG Student Chapter of the Society of American Military Engineers.
The SPICE program is funded by the National Science Foundation under the INCLUDES initiative, which stands for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science.