Four students explore societal solutions at computing challenge
Four University of Guam students were among 25 students chosen nationwide to participate in the second annual Computing4Change challenge hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery in November in Denver. The event occurs within the annual Supercomputing conference, held by ACM and the IEEE Computer Society.
The four students – business administration majors Faith Bautista and Jeanie Nguyen, computer science major Regina Mae Dominguez, and civil engineering major Patrick Santos – were selected to participate based on their vision for using technology to affect positive change and their potential to make an impact and to add diversity in their chosen fields.
“The computing challenge was a big eye-opener for me, and I believe it was the start of an opportunity directly related to what I want to pursue in terms of a career,” Dominguez said. “It also enhanced my knowledge related to my major in mathematics and computer science.”
The challenge introduces students to using computing to create positive change in society. This year, students were tasked to identify factors contributing to maternal and infant mortality and morbidity in the United States.
Cohorts are introduced to several skills and techniques, including how to apply data analysis and computational thinking toward a social challenge using visualization tools like Python, R Studio, Matlab, and Tableau. They also learn to expand their skills in team-based problem solving.
“I did a correlation between the number of infant deaths and the amount of money Guam spends on imported prepared meat (canned goods), sugar confectionaries, rice, and other types of food and found that there was a loose correlation between the infant mortality rate and prepared meat and sugar confectionaries,” Dominguez said. “The data did tell me that about 70% of the mothers who experienced infant deaths in 2013 were considered obese and overweight.”
For Bautista, her biggest takeaway was experiencing similar interests with a diverse group of people from around the world.
“Throughout the competition I felt I gained not only a new learning experience of computing and research, but I also gained lifelong friendships and a family. I really enjoyed hearing where they came from, their personal stories, and sharing my home, Guam,” Bautista said.
Dominguez’s experience at the competition led her to apply and get accepted to the Cyberinfrastructure Research for Social Change Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dominguez will attend REU virtually this summer.
Junior civil engineering major Nilo Jr. Espinoza, who won Best Presentation with his team at the Supercomputing 2018 conference, accompanied the four students to the competition as a mentor.
Applications are being accepted until May 17 for the next Computing4Change competition, scheduled to take place at the Supercomputing 2020 conference from Nov. 14-20 in Atlanta. Students of all majors with a minimum GPA of 2.5 are eligible to apply.
Financial support for airfare, lodging, meals, and conference registration will be provided by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing.