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USF College of Business teaches high-schoolers data analytics in half-day bootcamp

Balaji Padmanabhan teaching boot camp

(July 5, 2014) -- Local high school students recently learned that data is more than numbers on a page -- they saw first-hand that data can be the deciding factor in making crucial business decisions.

Data analytics is an in-demand skill in most industries, with businesses looking to hire employees who can help make sense out of numbers. The USF College of Business offered these high school students the chance to get a head start -- for free.

Thirty-seven students spent Saturday over the July Fourth holiday weekend at the college's inaugural "Data Analytics in Excel" boot camp for high school students at USF's Tampa campus. In the half-day session, these students got an opportunity to play the role of a business consultant. The students downloaded real-time flight arrivals and departures data, analyzed the data, and made recommendations on important business decisions such as expanding service at an airport. The boot camp was taught by Professor Balaji Padmanabhan, the chair of USF's Information Systems & Decision Sciences Department and a leading researcher and expert in the field of data analytics. Several USF undergraduate, masters, and doctoral MIS students, as well as Professor Manish Agrawal, were on hand to assist the students.

"Events such as this are quite novel. Not many universities in the world provide such opportunities for high school students," Padmanabhan said. "I was very impressed with the turnout, as well as at how excited and motivated these students were. We can't wait to do this again".

The boot camp offered hands-on learning, with students working individually and in small groups to apply their newly gained knowledge. Attendees learned how to analyze a simple business data set in Excel, created summaries and insights, and summarized their findings in a short Powerpoint presentation. This session was the first of its kind, made possible in part by a new TEAm grant -- the Targeted Educational Attainment program, a state grant that supports Florida's universities in educating students in high-demand employment areas. The Management Information Systems program at USF's College of Business plans to host similar boot camps in upcoming months.

The boot camp also offered the opportunity for students to work on a project on their own for two months outside of the classroom, which will be graded by a USF faculty member. Students who complete the project will receive a formal letter of commendation.

View a photo gallery from the boot camp on the USF College of Business Facebook Page.