COVID-19 Disclaimer and Information

Due to unforeseen circumstances regarding COVID-19, STEM Fellowship has taken the initiative to make the Big Data Challenge take place entirely online. This means that there will be absolutely no need to attend in-person workshops and training sessions, and everything will be delivered online.

Public Announcement

This year we had a record-breaking number of registrations with 179 registered teams for our annual Undergraduate Big Data Challenge (unBDC)! This year’s challenge resulted in a diverse amount of participants. The teams consisted of 519 participants in total, with 249 of them identifying as female and 270 as male. The participants weren’t alone however, as we had over 48 mentors there to guide and encourage the participants.

The 2020 unBDC has 3 separate publication prizes, as well as 2 prizes for engaging with large health organizations, being Diabetes Action Canada and Roche Canada. Winners were eligible to win prizes with this year’s pool consisting of over $7500 worth in monetary and technological prizes! The Big Data Challenge takes place from May 22 – 31, 2020, with the finale event held in mid-July. In order to determine a winner in the best way possible, there will also be a total of 9 different judges.

This year’s theme of Personal and Public Health Decisions in a New Open Data Reality, encouraged students to apply analytical and computational approaches to analyze the open data. This year’s analysis was based on open data from Health Canada, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Drug Bank, the National Cancer Institute, Google Data Search, and more. The 5 different workshops as well the unBDC were held entirely online.


For more details about the Big Data Challenge, please read the welcome document below.

What is Big Data Challenge?

The Big Data Challenge (BDC) for undergraduate students is an inquiry-driven experiential learning program that invites students from across the country to strengthen their problem-solving and critical thinking skills while gaining familiarity with the fundamentals of data science.

How It Works

  • Form and register teams of up to 4.
  • Participants are offered data science workshops, various analytical tools like SAS, R, and Python, and mentorship from experts in academia and industry.
  • Teams submit their results as research manuscripts.
  • The finalists are then invited to defend their findings in front of a panel of experts to compete for prizes.
  • All submitted abstracts are published in the peer-reviewed STEM Fellowship Journal through the NRC Research Press.
  • The BDC will take place from May 22 to 31, 2020, with the finale event held in mid-July.
  • All aspects of the BDC will occur online.

About the Event


Exploring the complexities and challenges of public and personal health decisions using open biomedical, social, and economic data.

The challenge will be based on the analysis of open data from:

Through this challenge, students will:

  • Collect and analyse data to investigate the validity of popular health claims within the media, by critically considering the implications of the data and attempting to establish objectivity.
  • Gain insight into how public health data plays a role in public policy, individual decisions, and economic/financial actions.
  • Characterise, understand, and predict the public health and socioeconomic effects of potentially disingenuous health claims within the media.
  • Explore a wide variety of open data in order to test novel hypotheses.

Identify and suggest policies and decisions in various areas of health and biomedical science that impact both individuals and the general public.

Why Participate?

    • Participate in workshops to learn key data science skills.
    • Interact remotely with mentors and students across Canada.
    • Have your work published in the peer-reviewed STEM Fellowship Journal! The top 3 finalists have full manuscripts published and all participants have their abstracts published.


    • National Diabetes Repository Data and Workshop
    • Opportunity to engage with Roche
    • Public and Personal Health Presentation Awards
      • 1st Prize: $1500 + Publication
      • 2nd Prize: $600
      • 3rd Prize: $400
      Public and Personal Health Decisions Research Excellence Awards
      • 1st Prize: $1500  + Publication
      • 2nd Prize: $600  + Publication
      • 3rd Prize: $400
    • $1500 worth of technological prizes
    • More to come soon!

Challenge Information

Teams of up to 4 students will be provided with datasets, workshops, learning resources, mentorship, and tools for data analysis to undertake exploratory analysis of sustainable energy. 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 professionals. 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.


Here are samples of last year’s workshops to give you an idea of this year’s live, interactive workshops. This year, we will have workshops that focus on statistics, data manipulation, data analysis, machine learning, and more! We encourage you to read these ahead of time to help prepare you for the upcoming BDC.


You do not need previous experience with programming, although it is recommended. We welcome all students who are eager to put effort into learning and expanding their skillsets, as well as those who show any level of interest in data science or the challenge topic. Additionally, we will provide you with access to resources and webinars to learn everything you need to succeed!

We encourage participants to start forming teams before the event. You may also register and participate on your own or request to be placed into a team after registration. It is also recommended to make interdisciplinary teams given the nature of some of our data challenge topics. Each team is encouraged to have at least one member having a medicine, life sciences, biology or a related field. This is recommended and not mandatory.

Think about what interests you the most in the field of the provided topic. Reflect on your day-to-day; talk to your friends and professional network from academia and industry; explore emerging technologies and platforms; read the internet and research articles. In hackathons like these, many teams come up with their topics in the first few days of the challenge, rather than beforehand.

No, students from any country can sign up. The IUBDC is not limited to Canadians.

Undergraduate and graduate students can register for the Big Data Challenge.

Yes, students do not necessarily have to represent the university at which they are studying.