Scottish primary schools win international data visualisation competition 

Kate Farrell - Weaving Our Way To School

FIVE Scottish primary schools have won The Data Lab’s inaugural Data Visualisation competition.

Announced today at Data Summit, The Data Lab’s flagship conference, it was revealed that the schools in East Lothian, Fife, Scottish Borders and West Lothian collectively scooped the top prize in the competition which garnered entries from around the world. Their entry was supported by Kate Farrell, Director of Curriculum Development and Professional Learning and Jasmeen Kawal, Project Officer, Data Education in Schools, both based at Moray House School of Education, the University of Edinburgh.

The winning entry, “Weaving Our Way to School”, used a process called ‘Data Weaving’ to visualise the many different methods teachers and pupils travelled to school. The project demonstrates how data visualisations and data gathering do not need to be digital and can be’unplugged’, using colourful ribbons on the gates of the primary schools to bring data insights to life. The submission shows how data visualisation can also involve members of the community, including school pupils, coming together to capture data within art installations.

The competition, launched on The Data Lab’s Community which has just marked its second anniversary, focused on the theme of community. The deliberately broad topic challenged entrants to consider themes such as Place, Interests, Culture, Religion, Values, Customs and Identity within their submission. The competition judges included Jenny Gates from Zonal, Reema Vadoliya from People of Data, Irina Maria Mocan or auticon, and Mark Shilton of Shilton Analytics.

Competition entrants were asked to source the appropriate data to help them explore the theme of community and come up with a data visualisation that would allow them to convey a particular narrative or story.

Describing the winning entry as “out of the box”, the judges said: “A unique concept of “DARTA”, also known as Data Art, the involvement of weaving bright coloured ribbons outdoors is fantastic. The entry is a simple, straightforward way to collect data and provide insights. It is excellent to see the impact on the community through educating and fostering an interest in data.”

The schools have won a joint prize package worth £1,000 and a speaking slot for Kate and Jasmeen at Data Summit 2023, where they will speak about how they worked with the schools to create the entry.

Runners-up in the competition included:

Florian Melki, a senior data engineer at Resilience and Marthe Viallet a Data Designer, both based in France created “Galaxy of Voices” which describes itself as a “stellar view of discourse” of the computer game “The Last of Us”. The visualisation explores a new way to visit a gaming3 community forum and emphasises the discussions and disputes present in the community. Judges commended Florian and Marthe for extracting data from an online community and using a unique and creative design to bring the data set to life.

Ifeanyi Idiaye, a data scientist based in Nigeria created “Mental Wellness Research Collaboration” which considers the concept of community as collaboration and working towards a common goal. Ifeanyi’s interactive data visualisation looked at data sets related to mental health, namely depression, anxiety, and PTSD, due to the sharp rise in diagnoses in recent years. The judging panel noted that Ifeanyi had created brilliant visualisation that combined interactive elements with a strong story arc throughout and included a narrative.

Commenting on the high calibre of entries, Steven Thomson, Events, Marketing & Community Officer from The Data Lab who oversaw the competition said: “When people think about data visualisations, they often consider them to be overly complex and highly complicated graphics. Our winners today demonstrate that data visualisations can embed art, science, and design – and some can be extremely straightforward and interactive.”

Each of the competition entries has been showcased to over 500 data and AI professionals at Data Summit over the last two days. 

The Primary schools involved in “Weaving Our Way to School” included:

  • Windygoul Primary, East Lothian
  • Dunbog Primary, Fife
  • Broomlands Primary, Scottish Borders
  • Seafield Primary, West Lothian
  • Deans Primary, West Lothian

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