The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

El Camino receives grant for data science curriculum with help from professor

Computer Science Professor Solomon Russell sits outside the Math Business Allied Health Building on Wednesday, Dec. 13. He loves to help students build a better understanding of critical thinking while motivating them to continue their education in pursuit of their goals. (Clarence Davis | The Union)

El Camino received a $350,000 grant earlier this semester to enhance teaching capacity and train faculty to incorporate a curriculum for data science, in collaboration with the University of California Berkeley.

El Camino was the only community college to be a primary recipient of the 13 grants recently awarded by the California Education Learning Lab, a government initiative that seeks to promote equity and positive outcomes for students.

Through the grant, El Camino will train new faculty on how to implement a data science curriculum to benefit students.

Data science is an emerging field that uses computer science and statistics to analyze data, make predictions, estimate values, draw conclusions and more.

As the demand for data science is increasing, the employment of data scientists is expected to increase by 35 percent in the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It’s a really emerging field that a lot of people don’t know about,” Alice Martinez, associate professor of mathematics said.

Martinez is one of the instructors who teaches CSCI-8, an introductory data science course that was first offered at El Camino in the spring of 2021. The course is a UC-transferrable, 4-unit course offered in the fall, winter and spring.

Computer Science Professor Solomon Russell said students will learn to connect math and science to “create and understand the world.”

“The data science course we offer is not just for computer science majors, it’s for everyone who’s just curious about the world,” he said.

UC Berkeley, a leader in data science curriculum, had reached out to community colleges to see if they would like to offer the same course, as the university had a high demand for data science and their classes were usually full.

“That course at [UC Berkeley] is one of the most popular courses on campus [for] all different types of majors,” Russell said.

Dr. Solomon Russell loves to help student build a better understanding of critical thinking while motivating them to continue their education while in pursuit of their goals.Dec.13.(Clarence Davis| The Union)
Computer Science Professor Solomon Russell stands in the hallway of the Math Business Allied Health Building on Wednesday, Dec. 13. Solomon has helped the data science curriculum at El Camino College by collaborating with UC Berkeley and applying for grants. (Clarence Davis| The Union)

Russell, who was interested in data science, contacted UC Berkeley to form a partnership and bring data science to El Camino.

Russell and other professors attended conferences, went through training, and took the course themselves to learn the material before teaching it.

“This [was] a great opportunity for us to be able to work with [UC Berkeley] to be able to create opportunities for students to encounter data science and other disciplines,” he said.

El Camino is one of only four California community colleges offering data science courses in collaboration with UC Berkeley.

So far, there’s been a high demand for the course; the college had to open up three sections when it was first introduced in 2021.

“We have discovered that because it’s only offered at a few colleges, we get a higher enrollment if we open it up to virtual,” Martinez said. “We’ve had students from all over the place.”

Russell also collaborated with UC Berkeley to apply for several grants. The most recent grant for $350,000 was initiated by Russell after he reached out to UC Berkeley and asked if they wanted to participate.

El Camino plans on bringing 20 to 30 faculty members over the next few years, starting with two faculty members for the Spring 2024 semester who will work with UC Berkeley students to develop data science experiences for their students.

“Knowing that we have great students and a lot of them go to [UC Berkeley]… it seemed like really a necessity in order to prepare our students for careers and also transfer,” he said.

CSCI-9, a new data science course called practical data science, will also be taught in the next spring semester to follow CSCI-8.

With CSCI-8 and CSCI-9, the Computer Science Department plans to offer students a certificate of achievement for data science, which will require two programming courses, two data science courses and a statistics course, among others.

“It would benefit students by giving them a useful skill they can apply in a multitude of different environments,” Russell said.

Russell said he is in the process of applying for another grant from the National Science Foundation to potentially partner with local high schools.

Director of Grants Development and Management Liliana Islas said the grant would allow El Camino to teach data science courses at high schools as part of the dual enrollment program.

“Via these grants…I think this will really help us kind of drill down and to understand what are the gaps…and how can we open up the stem field in general…to really be inclusive,” Islas said.

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