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MSc Innovation Week

Innovation Week 2021 – enabling students to connect and collaborate

From GIS to Git, Data Challenge to Data Visualisation, AI Strategy to Yoga – you can pack a lot into a The Data Lab MSc Innovation and Development week

We wanted our The Data Lab MSc students, after a difficult year, to connect and collaborate with their cohort and get a sense that they are part of a wider, supportive data science community in Scotland.

So our key event of The Data Lab MSc programme calendar, which brings the whole cohort together, took a different slant this year. We created an on-line programme curated to enable our students to practice their non-technical skills, develop some new technical skills and engage with some of the key issues that will shape their future, and the future of data science in Scotland. We used a new platform for booking through Inkpath, worked with new partners including SkillfluenceFilamentthe School of Geosciences University of EdinburghSnook, and the The AI Strategy Team, and packed the week with opportunities to attend workshops and hear from key innovators, founders and data experts at an Innovation and Entrepreneurship session.

What did our students think of the experience?

Lora Kiosseva, MSc student at Strathclyde University, shares her thoughts

MSc student Lora Kiosseva“Back in September when I started the MSc in Advanced Computer Science with Big Data I knew that I was at the beginning of a journey to expand my knowledge in the field, but I had no idea how much more than that I was going to get! Having to do this course from home because of the pandemic, I did not expect to improve my communication and team-working skills or to meet that many inspiring people, but throughout the year The Data Lab organised some great events with knowledgeable and engaging speakers and skills-enriching workshops. The peak of this learning experience for me was Innovation Week – a condensed and eventful week, during which an incredible amount of knowledge and new ideas were exchanged.

A great kick-start of the week was the design thinking workshop. We were split into groups and had to design a system, which will be used by the public. A great mental exercise was to put ourselves in the shoes of the different groups of people, who would benefit from this system and to try and make it as usable, convenient, and clean in terms of design as possible no matter the age, background, or goal of the user. We were shown some techniques on how to tackle such problems and some of those techniques really make you think out of the box! It was also a great exercise on how to communicate ideas, reach conclusions and collaborate with a team of people that you haven’t met before.

3d spatial data graphicAnother great event was the GIS workshop. Who knew spatial and geographical data can be so much fun? We learned how to use QGIS to create some really informative and sleek visualisations of geographical data in 2D and even 3D! We all know the power of a good visualisation- it tells a story, it reveals hidden patterns, it makes the information displayed much clearer, and it can even save lives! We learned about a great project, for which data is used to generate a hazard map that can help people in the case of a volcano eruption!

In addition to all of this, I got the chance to attend a data challenge, a Git workshop, and a very inspiring panel session about entrepreneurship and innovation.

It is June now and I am starting my summer internship with ThinkAnalytics. Thanks to the great support of The Data Lab, I will be working with a fantastic team and a massive set of quality real-world data. Innovation Week put me in the right mindset for this final big step of the MSc course, equipped me with skills for life, and gave me the chance to speak to incredibly inspiring people, who reminded me about all the possibilities that lie ahead. Many thanks to everyone who organised and participated in Innovation week!”

Fraser Buchanan, MSc Artificial Intelligence and Applications, University of Strathclyde, sums up what Innovation Week meant to him

“It is always a good tactic to try approaching challenges in different ways and The Data Lab MSc’s Innovation and Development week did just that with a day-long session on Design Thinking. We learnt a structured way to think about a data problem from a design perspective which has given me a transferable skill that can be applied to many more tasks than I had realised. I previously worked in manufacturing and was aware of some aspects of a design process, but had never thought of applying it to data science. Participating in the fast-paced and hands-on Design thinking session has given me a new tool to improve the quality and relevance to the customers of any future work.

Working on a Data Challenge was a great opportunity to apply the knowledge gained during my MSc to a real-world problem. Working with new people, who have been on similar courses at different universities, meant that we all brought something unique to the problem we were given. During the day I learned to use new tools. The support given by the team at Filament was fantastic and a huge help in getting a result to a complex problem in a relatively short time.

Diagram showing design thinking process

Through the session on Scotland’s AI Strategy our The Data Lab MSc cohort 2020-21 had the opportunity to have our say on the shape of Scotland’s AI future. We heard how the Scottish Government views the opportunities that data science could give to Scottish business and governance, as well as individuals studying the subject. It was interesting to hear the thoughts of other students and heartening that many of our opinions align. The excitement about the potential is uplifting but tempered with the knowledge of limitations and ethical concerns. It’s not often that a sector asks government for guidance and regulation and, to me, shows a maturity already present in this new generation of data scientists.

I had not worked with Geospatial data much during my MSc and chose the “What’s special about spatial” workshop for that reason. The very practical tutorial-style and relaxed atmosphere was engaging and the demonstrator in my group very helpful. I learned enough to ensure that I would be confident to work with geospatial data on a new project. That was not something I was expecting from a single day course and have already found ways to improved previous work with my new knowledge.”


More about The Data Lab MSc Innovation Week:

Read the blog from Gavin Allan, BI & Data Science at Barclays Corporate Banking “Data visualisation, bias and data storytelling”, plus watch the video of his keynote talk.

Our Principal Data Scientist, Joanna McKenzie gives her thoughts on Design Thinking in data science projects and the need for a Creative Data Science approach after joining students at Innovation Week: Creative data science and design thinking in data science projects.

Find out more about the AI Strategy Session as part of Innovation Week: Reflections on the AI Strategy session at the TDL MSc Innovation Week

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