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Belmont Data Collaborative Draws 70 Students for First ‘Hackathon’

Last Saturday, dozens of students from across campus gathered for a full day for the first ‘Data Hackathon’ from the Belmont Data Collaborative (BDC), a new division that will serve internal and external audiences by promoting data fluency and data-driven solutions to all types of problems while also creating pipelines for jobs that require data skills. The Nov. 6 Data Hackathon partnered with the Mechanical Licensing Collective, which provided streaming royalties data, and Juice Analytics, which provided their JuiceBox analytical tool, to provide insights into why or how someone would receive rights and royalties.

Data Hackathon t-shirt

“This was an opportunity for all majors to collaborate and talk data,” said Dr. Charlie Apigian, BDC executive director and professor of business system and analytics. “We had 70 students from 22 different majors represented. We also had 10 companies represented as either volunteers or mentors for the day. This event shows that there is a need and hunger from students, faculty and the community for data skills and the first step is allow individuals from different backgrounds to get together and address a problem through the use of data.”

Junior music business major Christian Ferguson said, “We had information on thousands of songs right at our hands, and we got to sort through it all as groups. My group had initially started to examine songwriters’ ownership stakes in the MLC data when Kris Ahrend, the CEO of the MLC, had an in-depth conversation with our group about some of our understandings of the data. He steered us in the right direction and pushed us to dive deeper… It pushed our understandings of the music business and allowed us to make new insights.”

Instructor of Journalism/Cinema, Television & Media Jennifer Duck, who served as one of several faculty mentors for the Hackathon, remarked at her own past experience working with Fortune 500 companies and the need at each corporation for different areas of expertise to collaborate. She saw that practice come to life for all of the students involved, preparing them for real-world challenges.

“Data often makes us ‘think again’ and bring in a multitude of perspectives we may not be exposed to in our personal bubbles,” she explained. “I’m excited for Belmont students and our greater community to grow with the Belmont Data Collaborative to become more informed thought leaders, community leaders and storytellers through the use of reliable data.”

Data Hackathon Group Shot

Freshman biology major Saidmakhmud Makhkamjonov noted, “The experience was amazing, and I was able to make great bonds with some of the upper classmen… One thing I learned is that data quite literally is all around us!”

Dr. Scott Hawley, professor of physics, served as a faculty mentor and used the Hackathon as an opportunity to do “double duty” as he prepared materials on analysis of tabular data for his Deep Learning and AI Ethics course. “I believe events like this have value to students because it provides them with an opportunity to engage with real-life data issues and to contribute in ways that help the community — in this case, the community of songwriters and musicians in Nashville!,” he said. “I’m excited about the new Belmont Data Collaborative because it has the potential to unite the interests of different areas of campus under one common set of goals and resources.”

The BDC already is working toward hosting two data hackathons in Spring 2022, one for Belmont students and another set for April 2 with Women in Technology Tennessee that will be an all-female data hackathon for all universities and companies in the region.

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