MP Tony Clement with SFU students Jasneet Sabharwal, Bradley Ellert, Jonathan Bhaskar, and Maryam Siahbani at CODE 2015.
April 15, 2015

Big Data Student and Team Win $5,000 at CODE 2015

Big Data Master’s student Jonathan Bhaskar and his team did not expect to win $5,000 when they joined a high-intensity 48-hour appathon hours after it had started.

SFU students Jonathan Bhaskar (Professional Master’s in Big Data), Bradley Ellert (M.Sc. in Computing Science), Jasneet Sabharwal (M.Sc. in Computing Science), and Maryam Siahbani (Ph.D. in Computing Science) competed against over 300 other teams in this year’s Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE 2015). With their app “High School Down, Where Next?” the team won the Best Student Team Prize!

CODE 2015 is a Government of Canada initiative where innovators from across the country compete to develop the best app using federal government data to improve Canadian lives. We talked to Jonathan to learn more about what the experience was like.

It all started on the day of the event, when Jonathan heard about the coding challenge through a teaching assistant from his Big Data Systems class. Excited about the opportunity, Jonathan asked his friends if they would like to form a team and compete. Despite the short notice, everyone was eager to participate, and so the “SFU Data Crunchers” was born. Jonathan impishly admitted that they had joined the event after it had started, but, evidently, this slight disadvantage did not hold them back.

The coding challenge involved three categories: Youth, Commerce, and Quality of Life. Each category consisted of three themes that would be announced at the start of the coding sprint.

The Data Crunchers chose Youth Employment as the focus of their web app. Knowing that a post-secondary education generally opens up higher-level job opportunities, they agreed that it was time to make it easier for high school students to pick a university or college. Jonathan’s experience in the Big Data program thus far provided a strong backbone for this task. Having taken courses in machine learning and data mining, and having worked with large data sets and visualisation techniques, Jonathan was well prepared to deal with the government’s open data.

In a hectic sprint, Jonathan and his teammates began working on obtaining the relevant data and cleaning it up by using Python code. Django, a web application framework, was used to build the web app. Of course, the data also had to be organized and visualized. This was done with the assistance of D3.js, a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data.

The result? “High School Down, Where Next?” aggregates information that is available all over the internet in one convenient location and allows users to filter the results based on variables, such as tuition and fees, rent, and location. Try the app here:

Well done, SFU Data Crunchers!