Using the Power of Open Data to Learn: Paving the Path to True Equality and Equal Access in Education

The Big Data Challenge (BDC) for high school students is an inquiry-based, interdisciplinary, experiential learning program that strengthens students’ problem-solving and critical thinking
abilities by working with Open Data. By allowing students to undertake independent research projects that tackle real-world problems, the BDC synergizes with both classroom and extracurricular experiences to foster an active digital citizenship position and prompt new
sustainable development innovative ideas.
Bring your findings into the class, to your peers, and into the community at large.

Under Patronage of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO








At STEM Fellowship, we care about the health and safety of our participants and the community at large. The Big Data Challenge will be conducted entirely remotely and online this year.
Should the COVID-19 Pandemic persist and prevent an in-person Big Data Day, we will have the Big Data Challenge finalists submit a video presentation and have judges evaluate them remotely.
Further, we will host video-conference interviews with academia and industry experts, as well as video presentations of speakers instead of the live round table and presentations at Big Data Day.


It is through educational systems that some of the brightest minds and innovators are found. However, education and access to it are not uniform. Gender, race, geographical region, socioeconomic status, and citizenship status are all significant, nuanced factors in this discussion.
We challenge students to examine Open Data related to their learning experiences, and to bring their results to their teachers, classrooms, and peers.
Teams of up to 4 students will be provided with datasets, workshops, learning resources, and tools for data analysis. With the help of experts from academia and industry, teams undertake exploratory analysis of socioeconomic and educational Open Data.
Data analysis is combined with scientific writing, insofar that the teams present their research findings in the form of scientific manuscripts, which are then evaluated by academics and industry professional

All aspects of the BDC, including the delivery of workshops, resources, and mentorship, will occur online and are equally accessible to all students regardless of their location or other circumstances.
The BDC engages teachers and their classrooms with Open Data analysis to strengthen their works, and apply what they learn. Science and learning are collaborative efforts, and we wish to further
promote this standard.
At the end of the program, the research abstracts of all teams and the manuscripts of winning teams are published in the open access, peer-reviewed NRC Research Press STEM Fellowship Journal . The top teams are then invited to defend their findings in front of a panel of experts in competing for monetary and academic prizes, at the culminating finale event.


This year’s National Big Data Challenge encourages high school students across the country to apply their computational thinking efforts on UNESCO Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) “Equity in Education”. One may use federal, provincial, municipal, and NGO Open data to seek ideas for better education for all regardless of socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic background, or even pandemic-related hardships.


CCUNESCO Scholarly Communication Awards

In memoriam of Mohammad and Zeynab Asadi-Lari

  • 1st Prize: $1000 + Publication

  • 2nd Prize: $250

  • 3rd Prize: $100

Let’s Talk Science Analytics Talent Awards

  • 1st Prize: $1000 + Publication

  • 2nd Prize: $250

  • 3rd Prize: $100

RBC Arnold Chan Memorial Award for Student Innovation

  • $1000 + Publication

Kimberly Foundation Prize for Transformative Ideas

In memoriam of Hugh and Pat Morris

  • 1st Prize: $1000 + Publication

  • 2nd Prize: $250

  • 3rd Prize: $100

Digital Science International Excellence In Analytics Award

  • $1000


Information Sessions

September 21 – October 9, 2020

Q&A and sample workshops for teachers and their students about the High School Big Data Challenge. Recordings and material will be provided following the orientation session.

Students and teachers may register HERE.

  1. Teacher Q&A Session – Monday, September 21, 2020 6:00pm ET
  2. Data Science Workshop for Teachers – Sunday, September 27, 2020 9:30pm ET
  3. Student Q&A Session – Monday, October 5, 2020 6:45pm ET
  4. Data Science Workshop + Q&A for Students – Friday, October 9, 2020 6:45pm ET

Registration Deadline

October 23, 2020

Form your team(s) of up to 4 students and register them online HERE.

Challenge Period

October 20, 2020 – January 22, 2021

  1. Crowdsource resources and investigate analytics tools (SAS, Python, Pandas, etc) choose the one you will learn and use. Workshops covering Data Science and Programming techniques will be provided to participants to help with this.
  2. Attend mentor sessions and ask questions to learn more about anything within the realm of data science and its applications.
  3. Work on your data set for 3 months. Work together with your team, making use of your mentors, teachers, and the provided resources to analyze your data and propose solutions.
  4. Tell the story of your data discovery through a scientific report. Use Overleaf to prepare your project report, and submit it to us.

Project Submission Deadline

January 23, 2021

Submit your project report developed in Overleaf before the deadline (2:59 AM on January 23) for evaluation by a team of academics and industry experts.

Finalist Announcement

February 5, 2021

The finalists (top 20 teams, 10 per region) will be announced! If selected, your team will have the opportunity to present your work at Big Data Day.

High School Big Data Day

February 28, 2021

The Big Data Day will be held completely remotely and conducted online.

Our Panelists

Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, CM, FRSC

Let’s Talk Science

President & Founder

Dr. Bonnie Schmidt is the founder and President of Let’s Talk Science, an award-winning, national charitable organization that she started while completing her PhD in Physiology at Western University. Let’s Talk Science helps children and youth fulfill their potential and prepare for their future careers and citizenship roles by supporting their learning and engagement through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Well over 9 million children, youth and educators have been impacted by Let’s Talk Science since its inception.

Isabelle LeVert-Chiasson

Canadian Commission for UNESCO

Program Officer, Education | National ASPnet Coordinator

Isabelle LeVert-Chiasson is the Education Program Officer with the Canadian Commission for UNESO (CCUNESCO). Her role includes the national coordination of the UNESCO Schools Network, engaging Canadians in UNESCO programs in Canada and abroad, providing advice to various levels of government related to the UNESCO Education Sector, and supporting the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO.

Sebastien Goupil

Canadian Commission for UNESCO (Formerly)

Former Secretary-General, Canadian Commission for UNESCO
Sébastien Goupil is the former Secretary-General of the Canadian Commission. Prior to that, he dedicated most of his career to cultural and social policy development. He has held various senior level positions in the federal public service, including Acting Corporate Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada at Library and Archives Canada, Director of Policy and Governance within Canadian Heritage’s Portfolio Affairs Office, and Director General of Policy and External Relations for the Status of Women Canada.

Dr. Sacha Noukhovitch

STEM Fellowship

President & Founder

Sacha Noukhovitch is the Founder and President of the STEM Fellowship – a charity organization that equips the next generation of change-makers in STEM with indispensable skills in data science and scholarly writing through peer mentorship and experiential learning. He is also an Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Science Publishing STEM Fellowship Journal – the national scholarly publication of original student research as well as a practicing educator implementing data science education at Earl Haig Secondary School, Toronto.

Dr. Suze Kundu

Digital Science

Head of Public Engagement

Suze Kundu is trained in nanochemistry, with a BSc in Chemistry, a MSc in Analytical Chemistry and a PhD in Materials Chemistry from University College London. A passionate educator, she has also studied for a PGCE in Senior School Science, and an MEd in University Learning and Teaching. After six years lecturing in the Department of Materials at Imperial College London and at the University of Surrey’s Chemical and Process Engineering Department, she joins Digital Science to head up our external engagement.


Vera Onana

Ph.D. Candidate, Concordia University, Montreal

Steve Scott

Director of Portfolio Development, Digitial Science Ltd.

Lucy Xu

MEng Candidate, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto

Dr. Vanessa Williams

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Toronto

Mariam Taktek

MSc Candidate, University of Ottawa

Dr. Danika Khong

Cofounder & CEO, Scismic

Susan Ibach

Head of Amazon Future Engineer Canada, Amazon Canada

Dr. Leslie McIntosh

CEO, Ripeta

Our Panelists

Inequity in Education: the Correlation Between Neighbourhood and School Performance
in Ontario

Shuyu van Kerkwijk, Florence Ho, Hibah Hussain, and Grace Ko

University of Toronto Schools

Investigating the impacts of Quality of life indicators on Education equity and access in a global context

Aneya Kazmi, Wendy Chen, Alice Du, Kelly Zhao

Earl Haig Secondary School

Economic cost and employment potentials for STEM and Non-STEM undergraduate majors in Canada

Luyuan Ge and Fengyuan Zhang

Bloor Collegiate Institute

Using Feature Importance Methods to Identify the Primary Factors Contributing to Education Index

Samuel Lu, Evan Skrukwa, and Shahryar Wasif

Westmount Charter School

Application of Multivariate Analysis in Identifying Factors Influencing Education Equity

Andrew Mao, Binder Nie, Nicholas Dong

Earl Haig Secondary School

Multivariate Analysis of United States Public Education Data to Optimize the Classroom Environment

Ammar Vora, Nishan Soni , Faiz Hanafi , and Vishwanath Wimalasena

Sir Winston Churchill High School
Robert Thirsk High School

The Role of Government Expenditure in Equitable Education

Jatin Mehta, Philip D’Costa, and Keval Patel

Erindale Secondary School

Investigating the Relationship between Poverty and Educational Success

Albert Choi, Jazli Muhammad, and Bobby Tang

Westmount Charter School

Educational Inequality Between Urban and Rural Areas

Joshua Lakdawala and Yash Jagirdar

Erindale Secondary School

A Study of How Money Invested in Secondary Students’ Education Impact the Quality of Education in the Math and Science Fields

Raymond Ma, Rachel Dietrich, Ruby Miller, and Tenzin Dhonyoe

Runnymede Collegiate Institute

A Correlative Analysis of Educator Identified Factors and Global Student Assessment Scores

Natalie Jarycki

Oakridge Secondary School

The Correlation Between Economic Status and Quality of Education

Isaac Bahler, Samantha Chong, Nanya Anyaduba, and Nier Kamel

Lindsay Thurber Composite High School

Examining the Effects of Government Funding and Staff Compensation on Public School Completion Rates

Allan Cao, Ziyan Li, Sarah Zuo

Westmount Charter School

The Impact of the Student Nutrition Program on Academic Achievement in Ontario

Cristian Bogdan, Harshith Duba, Nathan Pfeffer, and Nada Salem

Earl Haig Secondary School

An Investigation into the Socioeconomic Factors Correlated to PISA Reading Scores

Orchee Haque, Sophie Hoyer, Stephanie Huynh, Sraddha Uppili

Westmount Charter School